The secrets of Gaudí

Discover the Sagrada Familia, where current technological and construction aspects are used to complement the ancient ones, in the article The Secrets of Gaudí by Arturo Campos.


The Basilica of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, ​​the last of the Great Cathedrals, designed by Gaudí since the end of the 19th century and which continues under construction in its final stages, is a magical work, where technological and constructive aspects blend with the ancient, almost medieval methods of stone cutters, model makers, and coppersmiths.

These modern techniques include computer modeling software such as rhinoceros, Cadds5, Catia and CAM, that allow the elaboration of complex geometries and their computer-assisted manufacturing for the designs of each of the elements that are currently built. In construction, the so-called industry 4.0 is used to help with the assembly of the tower components. Virtual reality is currently also used for the design process, developing 3D models that are recreated in virtual reality glasses. As well as Laser Scan for the conservation of ancient areas.

However, beyond what we can see with the naked eye in this magnificent work, what catches us when we look at it and observe its shapes and sculptures remains hidden, something that we do not see but rather hear, perhaps without realizing it but it envelops us in a story of sounds, colors and journeys.

During my time in the Sagrada Familia I learned to see it, to understand its geometric shapes of paraboloids and hyperboloids, and I understood why Gaudí said that his best teacher was the tree in the corner of his workshop, the organic shapes come to life inside the Temple and create an enchanted forest, where the tall fluted columns are the trunks that, through their capital, are transformed into branches and the ceiling is the foliage, with natural light that invades the interior of the church and diffuses as in a forest through its leaves.

Interior del templo / Interior of the temple
Fotografía / Photography: Jose Francisco Fernandez Saura en Pexels

But in addition to this visual understanding, I discovered through all the acoustic studies that I carried out of Gaudí’s work, together with the acoustic architect Francesc Daumal, professor at the UPC, director of my doctoral thesis and great promoter of the study of acoustics architecture and Gaudí, that beyond what we can see is what we can hear. The acoustic studies not only of the Sagrada Familia but of all of Gaudí’s work were carried out with measurement technology using integrating sound level meters, sound measurements by in situ emissions and software such as Symphonie, where all the recorded measurements were processed, interpreting reverberation times and equivalent sound levels in the different works of Gaudí.

The acoustic studies of all of Gaudí’s work were carried out with measurement technology using integrating sound level meters, sound measurements by in situ emissions and software such as Symphonie.

For the acoustic study of the Sagrada Familia, a portion of a model was created with the shapes of the ceilings of the naves and through Ray Tracing an approach was obtained of how light and sound diffuse in the space and cover the entire interior of the church. From these studies we can see that in the Sagrada Familia we find an acoustic itinerary made up of what is physically perceived and also by all the symbols and sculptures of the Temple that create sound messages within thought.

Entradas de luz mediante los vitrales / Light entrance from stained glass
Fotografía / Photography: Maria Orlova en Pexels

Los ambientes generados por Gaudí, con formas y proporciones inspiradas en la naturaleza y la geometría, producen tonos musicales característicos que hacen que esta arquitectura sea única.

The environments generated by Gaudí, with shapes and proportions inspired by nature and geometry, produce characteristic musical tones that make this architecture unique.

Gaudí lived in a time where music and sounds were part of daily life and made up the culture of society, his sensitive spirit collected these elements, turning them into architecture. Architecture and sounds in Gaudí, space and time, act in unison in his work. Forms, materials, symbols, fantasy and reality, make up the great music that becomes architecture; the architecture that makes music through the sound notes that each space provides.

Gaudí intended that La Sagrada Familia resemble a great musical instrument, in which the entire city could participate. It has planned internal acoustics; choirs, organs, bell towers and bells, with the necessary location so that the interior and exterior enjoyment of the temple was maximum.

Disposición de los coros / Choir arrangement
Fotografía / Photography: Arturo Campos

The sound mysticism of spaces for worship; singing outside to involve the entire town and hear the voice of the building as another individual. Within these ideas, the impetus for popular participation in singing stood out; The word and voice of choirs, priests and faithful would combine and predominate over the music. He arranged places for the choirs according to the type of voice and their interpretive ability, the children’s choirs are located around the apse and the presbytery is complemented with the choir of clerics at an intermediate level while the female choirs are located laterally 15m from height.

All these stories of Gaudí’s sounds and many more, not only of the church but of all his work, are discussed and explained in the book The Voices of Gaudí, where through stories, narrations, explanations of conversations of Gaudí with his friends of the time, from references to real and imaginary sound itineraries, we can discover a different way of “seeing” and feeling his architecture.

The journey through the Sagrada Familia is rich in real or imaginary sound surprises, such as the sculptures of turtles that support the weight of the Nativity facade, which seem to truly come alive and move, or the angels with their trumpets, evoking celestial music in the mind. All these real or imagined sounds demonstrate that a building is not only what we see but also what we hear, touch, or feel as we traverse it, where each symbol, image, or shape seems to have its own sound, all through its great spirit, the same spirit of Gaudí.

Detalles en fachada / Facade details
Fotografía / Photography: Maria Orlova en Pexels