Stonemasons of the Sagrada Familia: a spectacular adventure

All the stone projects that come to our hands have a certain complexity and are exciting to carry out. However, when the project we are talking about is the Sagrada Familia, the magnitudes multiply.

As you can imagine, building the Sagrada Familia is a major challenge with a strong emotional charge. At Barbany Artisans it has marked us forever. So much so that we want to tell you some details about the experience of working as stonemasons for the Sagrada Familia.

As it could not be otherwise every good story has a beginning. It’s time to get comfortable and enjoy it.

In the right place at the right time

Our collaboration with the Sagrada Familia dates back many years. Grandpa Pitu had already been delivering granite blocks through intermediaries for some time. However, the story does not begin here but in 1998, when our relationship with the Sagrada Familia became closer.

The turning point came the day we placed the sculpture of Sant Josep de Calassanç, the work of Manuel Cusachs. There was Carles Farràs, a technician from the Sagrada Familia, who approached us to take interest in the details of our company.

As a result of the good feelings in that first meeting, we arranged a visit to the Òrrius quarry, where we worked. Allà ens van visitar en Carles Farràs juntament amb Toni Caminal, arquitecte tècnic de la Basílica.

I will never forget the moment they asked me if I was interested in working for the temple as they looked with a magnifying glass at a sample of granite from our quarry, the granite snake eye. Those words made my heart speed up.

Since we were already collaborating indirectly in the construction of the Basilica, I obviously told them that they could keep counting on us. They laughed and said: “no, from now on let’s do it seriously”.

Alright! Of course, I said yes. Our intention was to work closely with them, but we were aware of our limitations because there were only 2 or 3 people in the workshop working the stone.

His response was a premonition of what would eventually happen: “You have to catch up. You have to install machines ”. That moment was the beginning of a truly spectacular adventure that still endures.

Reunió Sagrada Familia

Uncertainty in the craftsmen profession

The solution was to mechanize the way we work but always maintaining the sensitivity of the craft to produce unique pieces. Industrial production was never an option to consider. We had previously visited industrialized workshops in France, in the Tarn area, and we knew that stonemasons always end up longing for the characteristic sound of handcrafted tools.

Although mechanization seemed the most reasonable option, we will not deny that the decision caused us some vertigo. On one hand, most of the artisan stonemasons we knew were retiring or moving on to more rewarding jobs. On the other hand, entirely manual productions are economically very expensive.

The continuity of the trade was unclear, and this was a factor to consider due to the significant investment we had to make in cutting-edge machinery. However, many times the passion for what we do is above everything else.

We decided to go ahead with the mechanization to be able to manage orders like those of the Sagrada Familia. It was not an easy decision and since then the road has not been without obstacles, but it has definitely been worth it.

Here are some brushstrokes that illustrate what it’s like to collaborate with the Sagrada Familia team.

A turning point in our history

Fortunately, we were able to establish a relationship in the purest Gaudí style with the temple technicians. Antoni Gaudí was an architect who had great respect for the artisans with whom he collaborated. He knew their limitations and enhanced their virtues, so working with him was a constant pleasure and learning.

We have lived this enriching experience of working for the Sagrada Familia first hand with all the technicians we have collaborated with. Our understanding of the trade has changed a lot thanks to them.

They have helped us understand a new way of doing things, and for example, drawing with computers and creating 3D designs. Processes that to the first members of the lineage would have seemed like science fiction, now we are applying them in our day to day. Even today, we are amazed at how we can extract accurate measurements and templates from a computer-generated part. There is a magic point in all of this.

Looking back we see the enormous evolution of projects such as the atrium columns of the Passion facade, where splendid technicians such as Jordi Bonet, Jordi Faulí, Jordi Coll, Mark Burry, Xisco Llabrés or Toni Caminal have participated. With all of them we have had really interesting discussions and we have learned in a reciprocal way working hand in hand.

One of the aspects that makes me most proud to collaborate in the construction of the Sagrada Familia is the trust environment and fluid communication to look for the best technical solutions. Thanks to this relationship we have ventured into innovative production methods that we are still using today.

For example, materials that turned out key in the construction of the temple have been proposed and we also devised a machine, unique in the stone sector at the time, in order to be able to work 7-meter-long columns in one piece. All of this can only be accomplished throughknowledge and courageous decision-making.

This article is a small tribute to the know-how and sensitivity of all these technicians without whom we are convinced that we would not have arrived where we are today. Working with them is an opportunity for which we are very grateful. We are also looking forward to continuing to help make new stone projects a reality. If you have any in mind, you can contact us here.