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130 years later, modern software helps complete Gaudi's architectural masterpiece

130 years later, modern software helps complete Gaudi's architectural masterpiece

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gaudi sagrada familia
gaudi sagrada familia

Construction on the Sagrada Familia began in 1883, when famed architect Antoni Gaudi first laid the blueprint for his now-iconic Barcelona church. Gaudi devoted his last years to the project, and 130 years later, it's widely regarded as one of the most stunningly unique buildings on Earth. It also has yet to be completed.

CBS News took a closer look at the Sagrada Familia on Sunday's 60 Minutes, delving into the history and mythology behind Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece. It's this history, together with an almost religious devotion to Gaudi's legacy, that drives much of today's efforts to complete the building. Gaudi had meticulously laid out the Sagrada Familia with a set of models he constructed before his death in 1926, but these models were smashed to pieces ten years later, when a group of anarchists bombarded the building during the Spanish Civil War. That made it understandably difficult for his successors to continue construction, though modern technology has breathed new life into their efforts.

Using advanced aeronautical design software, Mark Burry and other architects have been able to reverse engineer Gaudi's models from leftover shards. Today, Burry is among a group of architects leading construction on the church's central tower, which, when completed, will stand 566 feet above the ground, making it the tallest church on Earth.

But the fact that they had to use 21st century software to realize a 19th century vision stands as testament to Gaudi's avant garde design language.

"He's someone who reinvented the language of architecture."

"We had to look to other professions who've actually tackled the complexities of the Família," Burry told 60 Minutes. The only equivalents, he added, are the initiatives undertaken by today's car, plane, and ship designers. "They've been grappling for decades with the very same issues that Gaudí was putting up as architectural challenges."

It also speaks to Gaudi's breathtaking ambition. According to biographer Gijs van Hensenberg, Gaudi envisioned the Sagrada Familia as an encapsulation of the entire Catholic history — a "Bible written in stone" that radically blends Gothic tradition with modernist sensibilities. "He's someone who reinvented the language of architecture," van Hensenberg said.

For more on the Sagrada Familia and Gaudi's forward-looking vision, see the unaired excerpt from CBS' interview with Burry, embedded below.