Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia is perhaps one of the longest active construction projects on the planet. Work began in 1882, when the beginnings of architect Antoni Gaudi‘s design graduated from 2D into 3D. Ironically, over one hundred years later, modern technology’s gift of 3D printing is helping the basilica get a little closer to completion as BBC’s Spencer Kelly reports. Although there is still much work left to be done to complete Gaudi’s vision, the church is already structurally sound, open to the public, and completely stunning.

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In part because of its long lifespan, this project has captivated architects and designers since its inception. What delights folks now is the amazing progress that 3D printing has enabled the present-day architecture team to stay as true as possible to the intent of the design’s original creator. Project leaders began using 3D printing in 2001, but the technology has advanced so much in recent years that it is now more useful and accurate than ever. Kelly visited the basilica recently and called the design “space-age,” which is certainly not what you might expect to hear about a Spanish house of worship designed in the 1800s.

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Chief architect Jordi Coll believes that Gaudi himself would have been a great proponent of 3D-printed architecture. “Due to the complexity of surfaces and forms, working with Gaudi’s designs in 2D does not make sense from an architectural point of view,” he said, as quoted by 3D Systems. “If Gaudi was alive today, he would have brought 3D technology to its maximum exponent, since much of his work was already conceived tri-dimensionally.”

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Related: Video reveals how Sagrada Familia will look when finished in 2026

Due to the scale of the project, Sagrada Familia has its own technical studio which acquired two 3D printers to help with the construction. The printers are being used, in large part, to reconstruct 3D models of the building, following Gaudi’s designs. The original plaster models created from Gaudi’s 2D drawings were almost completely destroyed by vandals during the Spanish Civil War, along with most of his writings and photographs.

Architects are working hard to use modern technology to piece back together Gaudi’s design, and the progress they’ve made on the building has most visitors feeling like they must be doing a good job.

+ 3D Systems

Via BBC

Images via Expiatory Temple of the Basílica de la Sagrada Família and Shutterstock (1 2 3 4)