Liquid Stone

Sunday 11 January, 10.30pm on TV One

The final instalment of local arts series Artsville is Liquid Stone, tonight at 10.30pm on TV ONE. In the 1970s, a Kiwi lad on his OE stepped into the shoes of one of the greatest architects of all time, cracking the code needed to complete Gaudi’s famously unfinished masterpiece and pioneering the use of digital technology, radically changing the way architecture is conceived and visualised.

The Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s most ambitious creation, was begun in the 19th Century and is still under construction in Barcelona today. Since Gaudi’s death in 1926 and the destruction of the original models during the Spanish Civil War, the building has languished for decades. No one has understood the complex geometry needed to complete the building. The loss of both the architect and his models, coupled with an esoteric sculptural style of building that was utterly unique, posed a daunting enigma for the architects who followed.

In 1979, 23-year-old Christchurch architect Mark Burry was offered the chance to crack the master’s code. Using Mark Burry’s own archives and 21st-century digital modelling, Artsville: Liquid Stone unlocks the secrets of Gaudi’s magnum opus, and tells the story of one of the world’s architectural masterpieces.

“You don’t slate somebody for designing the impossible,” Burry suggested, “You use human ingenuity to achieve the possible”. So with nothing more than a few broken plaster models, a drawing of a single façade to provide clues and good old Kiwi ingenuity, he began recreating Gaudi’s plans by hand.

After completing his own drawings, Burry found the key: “With Gaudi, every surface you see is warped, but they are all surfaces made from straight lines. With the Sagrada Familia, we are actually trying to make a piece of geography.”

Having found the key to Gaudi’s esoteric design models, Burry took the innovative step of applying aeronautical software to accelerate this time-consuming process – a step that would prove totally transformative to the long process before him, and revolutionise the practice of architecture forever.

Twenty-six years on, the exploitation of new digital technologies to analyse and interpret Gaudi’s vision has made the Sagrada Familia a benchmark of innovative design practise and construction for the 21st Century. Gaudi’s methods, once considered esoteric and unorthodox, make perfect sense in the fluid digital environment of computers, providing valuable insights for the buildings of the future.

Artsville: Liquid Stone sees the story of one of the world’s architectural masterpieces, the astonishing technology employed to complete it, and the Kiwi-led design team realising Gaudi’s vision.


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  • Kevin

    How can I get a copy of this documentary (Liquid Stone) for personal use?