The Casa Mila, also known as ” La Pedrera ” building is a modernist located in Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona, in the corner of the street Provence. It was the last civil work designed by Antoni Gaudí and was built between 1906 and 1912. It was commissioned by the businessman Pere Milà i Camps and his wife Roser Segimon i Artells, a native of Reus and widow of the wealthy Indian Josep Guardiola i Grau. At the time it was very controversial due to the bold wavy shapes of the stone façade and the twisted wrought iron that decorate its balconies and windows, designed largely by Josep Maria Jujol, who also designed some of the plaster ceilings.
Architecturally, it is considered an innovative work as it has a structure of columns and floors free of load-bearing walls. In the same way, the façade – entirely made of stone – is self-supporting, in other words, it must not support loads from the plants. Another innovative element was the construction of the underground garage. Casa Milà is a reflection of Gaudí’s artistic fullness: it belongs to his naturalistic stage (first decade of the 20th century), a period in which the architect perfected his personal style, drawing inspiration from the organic forms of nature, for which he put in practice a whole series of new structural solutions originated in the in-depth analyzes carried out by Gaudí of regulated geometry. To this, the Catalan artist adds great creative freedom and an imaginative ornamental creation: starting from a certain baroque style, his works acquire great structural richness, of forms and volumes devoid of rationalist rigidity or any classical premise.
The year 1984 was declared Cultural Heritage by UNESCO for its outstanding universal value. Since 2013 it has been the headquarters of the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera, which manages the various exhibitions and activities that take place there and visits to the building.
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born on June 25, 1852 in Catalonia Spain. As a child, Gaudí’s health was poor, suffering from rheumatism. Because of this, he was afforded lengthy periods of time resting at his summer house in Riudoms. Here he spent a large portion of his time outdoors, allowing him to deeply study nature. This would become one of the major influences in his architecture to come. Gaudí was a very practical man and a craftsman at his core. In his work he followed impulses and turned creative plans into reality. His openness to embrace new styles combined with a vivid imagination helped mold new styles of architecture and consequently helped push the limits of construction. Today he is regarded as a pioneer of the modern architecture style.
In 1870, Gaudí moved to Barcelona to study architecture. He was an inconsistent student who showed flashes of brilliance. It took him eight years to graduate due to a mix of health complications, military service as well as other activities. After completion of his education he became a prolific architect as well as designing gardens, sculptures and all other decorative arts. Gaudí’s most famous works consisted of several buildings: Parque Güell; Palacio Güell; Casa Mila; Casa Vicens. He also is contributed for his work on the Crypt of La Sagrada Familia and the Nativity facade. Gaudí’s work at the time was both admired and criticized for his bold, innovative solutions. Gaudí’s life came to a tragic end when he was run over by a tram. A few weeks later he died in the hospital due to his injuries on June 10, 1926 at the age of 74. A few years after his death, his fame became renowned by critics and the general public alike
Gaudí, a Catholic and a devotee of the Virgin Mary, planned for the Casa Milà to be a spiritual symbol. Overt religious elements include an excerpt from the Rosary on the cornice and planned statues of Mary, specifically Our Lady of the Rosary, and two archangels, St. Michael and St. Gabriel.
The philosopher and writer Josep Maria Carandell offers in his work La Pedrera, Gaudí’s cosmos a symbolic interpretation of the roof of Casa Milà based on religious, cosmogonic and literary concepts. For this author, the roof would be an auto sacramental (a dramatic play in celebration of Corpus Christi), a staging of the origin of life and the family sublimated by divine revelation. According to this hypothesis, the theatrical character of the terrace would be originated by two dramatic works, Life is a dream by Pedro Calderón de la BarcaAs in the lobby of the building and the Hamlet of William Shakespeare, while also would continue the presence of Metamorphoses of Ovid, winding by the changing appearance of the roof. In Catalonia, the presence in the Corpus processions of giants and big heads, or animal figures such as dragons and vipers, is traditional, and that would be Gaudí’s intention for the roof of La Pedrera.
Thus, the stairway exits would be gigantic, each of which would assume a role in the auto sacramental: the main ones, located on the chamfer, would be the Fathers, in the shape of a dragon coiled in itself, the one on the right being the Mother, who is at the same time mother nature, the family mother and the personification of the Virgin Mary and, allegorically, of Life, while the one on the left is the Father, identified with God the Creator and as an allegory of Power; the others would be the children, in two pairs, symbolized by the windows placed at their feet in a triangular shapeupwards the masculine ones and downwards the feminine ones, the one on Passeig de Gràcia being the «warrior son», the good and heroic one, which corresponds to Saint Michael (or Saint George), or to Sigismund.
The protagonist of Life is dream, while ultimately it would be Jesus and, allegorically, Wisdom; The one facing the neighboring courtyard is the “skeptical son”, evidenced by being naked (he does not have the trencadís cladding that the other figures have), and which would correspond to Hamlet, the doubtful and irresolute character; its equivalent, equally undressed she is the “crazy daughter”, which corresponds to the Shakespearean Ophelia or the Calderonian Rosaura; and the one on Provenza Street is the “sensible daughter,” whose virtues Estrella, the Infanta in Life is a Dream, assumes, as an allegory of Love and the Holy Spirit (as demonstrated by her form of three intertwined doves).
Finally, the two ventilation towers are identified by Carandell with the King and Queen, the first being the one in the shape of a mask, which would correspond to Claudio from Shakespeare’s work or Basilio from Calderón’s; and the second, cup-shaped, would be Gertrude, the mother of Hamlet, the adulterous queen, who would personify Lasciviousness – hence the openings in the form of a female womb.
However, the Casa Milà was not built entirely to Gaudí’s specifications. The local government ordered the demolition of elements that exceeded the height standard for the city, and fined the Milàs for many infractions of building codes. After Semana Trágica, an outbreak of anticlericalism in the city, Milà prudently decided to forgo the religious statues. Gaudí contemplated abandoning the project but a priest persuaded him to continue.
Casa Mila is located on a corner of Paseo de Gracia with Provenza street, formerly occupied by a villa that made border between the municipalities of Barcelona and Gracia before the annexation of this town to Barcelona in 1897. In 1900, Passeig de Gràcia was the most important avenue in the city, where emblematic buildings began to be built, the best theaters and cinemas and the most exclusive shops, restaurants and cafés were set up.
It was also where the wealthiest and most impetuous bourgeois decided to build their houses and, in a race of boldness and exhibitionism, commissioned the projects to the most prestigious architects of the time. In 1905 Pere Milà and Roser Segimon married. Attracted by the fame of Passeig de Gràcia, they bought a tower with a garden that occupies an area of 1,835m2 and commissioned the architect Antoni Gaudí to build his new residence with the intention of occupying the main floor and renting the rest of housing: La Casa Milà.
The construction of the Casa Milà aroused a lot of interest and several reports were made on it, such as that of the magazine “ L’Edificación Moderna ”, published by the employers’ association of builders. It is explained that Gaudí was concerned with meeting the needs of modern life “without the nature of the materials or their conditions of resistance being an obstacle that limits their freedom of action”, and describes the structure of columns as a novelty to achieve large and very bright spaces.
The construction of the building was complex, with financial and legal problems, and was not without controversy. Gaudí was constantly changing his projects to shape the appearance and structures of the building. It went far beyond the planned budget estimate and did not comply with City Council regulations: the building was illegal in the volume built. The part of the attic and the roof exceeded the maximum allowed and one of the pillars of the façade occupied part of the sidewalk of Passeig de Gràcia.
When Gaudí learned that an inspector had gone to alert the builder, Mr. Bayó, of these illegalities, left very precise instructions. If it happened again and the column had to be cut, he would put up a plaque: “the missing piece of column has been cut by order of the City Council.” Finally, the Eixample Commission certified that the building was monumental in nature and did not have to comply strictly with municipal ordinances. However, the Milan had to pay a fine of 100,000 pesetas to legalize it.
The Milanese couple argued with Gaudí over his fees until he reached the courts. Gaudí won the lawsuit and Roser Segimon had to mortgage the Casa Milà to pay the architect, who gave compensation to a convent of nuns. In the early years, advertisements were published in La Vanguardia offering rooms for rent at Casa Milà, requesting service for some of the tenants and even offering English classes with a teacher, Miss Dick.
Among the tenants, the Hispano-American Pension (1912-1918); Alberto I. Gache (Buenos Aires, 1854-Montevideo, 1933), consul of the Argentine Republic in Barcelona, who resided in the 1st 2nd from August 5, 1911 until the end of 1919; the Abadal family, who settled in the 3rd 1st, and lived there from 1912 until the end of 1930. The Egyptian prince Ibrahim Hassan (Cairo, 1879 – Barcelona, 1918) who died at his home on the Paseo de Grace 92. And the Baladia family, textile industrialists, who had rented the 2nd 2nd floor of Carrer Provença as a foot on the ground, that is, a central, practical and “small” place to stay to sleep the nights that came out late in the Liceu, the Palau de la Música, the theater or a party in Barcelona.
From 1929 onwards, shops were set up on the ground floor of the building, such as the famous Sastreria Mosella, which was there for more than 80 years. In 1947 Roser Segimon, a widow for 7 years, sold the building to Provence Real Estate, but continued to live on the main floor until her death in 1964.
On July 24 of 1969 Gaudí’s work had been officially recognized historical monument. It was a first step in preventing further destruction. But it would not be until 1984, with the designation of a World Heritage Site, when a change in its protection would begin. First the City Council tried to rent the main floor to install the office of the Olympic bid for the 1992 Games. Finally, the day before Christmas 1986, Caixa de Catalunya acquired La Pedrera for 900 million pesetas.
On February 19th of 1987 they started the most urgent, such as catering and cleaning the facade. The commission was carried out by the architects Josep Emili Hernández-Cros and Rafael Vila. In 1989 they drafted a Master Plan for the restoration and rehabilitation of the Milan house in which an extensive program of interventions, adaptations and uses was proposed in the whole building: main floor as an exhibition hall., basement floor as Auditorium and Multipurpose Room, attic floor as a Center for permanent interpretation of the life and work of Gaudí, roof floor as a public square, visit to the building and contemplation of the city, and ground floor to fourth floor, both included, such as housing and business premises.
This Master Plan deserved the approval of the Department of Culture of the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Monumental and Historical Heritage Protection Unit of Barcelona City Council. The restoration and adaptation to new uses was completed on June 27, 1996 in a symbolic delivery to the public with a show organized by the theater company “Els Comediants” with the motto “For Barcelona we do not put a grain of sand, but a whole quarry. ”
Previously, in 1990, within the framework of the Cultural Olympics, on the noble floor of Milan you could see the exhibition the Golden Square dedicated to modernist architecture in the center of Barcelona’s Eixample.
After the restoration works, they received several awards, such as the ACCA Prize for Art Criticism 1996, from the Catalan Association of Art Critics, dedicated to the best cultural and artistic initiatives, awarded to the «Espai Gaudí »To represent the culmination of the process of restoration and dignification of La Pedrera, with the attic being one of the most reliable witnesses of Antoni Gaudí’s innovative structural approaches. The Generalitat de Catalunya, in turn, awarded the 1997 National Culture Prize, within its Cultural Heritage section, to the architects Francisco Javier Asarta and Robert Brufau and to the historian Raquel Lacuesta for the restoration of the attic floor and the roof, recognizing the success of the purpose given to these spaces.
After nearly eleven months of work, on December 22, 2014, the inauguration of the third major refurbishment of the façade of the Casa Milà took place. They were months of intense work of cleaning and restoration of the facade. During the works, a large scaffolding covered La Pedrera, while inside, the Fundació Catalunya La Pedreradid not stop activities. The state of conservation of the stone was good enough, so the intervention consisted of a cleaning of the stone and a sanitation of the affected areas. Base mortar was applied and a treatment of the joints was made. The iron railings were also rehabilitated, with prior cleaning, rust removal, minor welding repairs, and final painting. The same process with different techniques was applied to carpentry, basically blinds. As for the balconies, a water-repellent treatment was carried out and the damaged panot was replaced.
The building is currently set up as a managed cultural center owned by the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera. Cultural activities, temporary exhibitions, conferences or presentations are organized in the auditorium, created in the space that was the car park. In the attic is located “L’Espai Gaudí”, a center for the interpretation of the complete work of the architect, its historical and cultural context, artistic values and technical innovations of its architecture, all with a clear pedagogical orientation. During 2010 it received 1,224,893 visitors.
The permanent offer open to the public (paid visit) allows you to visit the roof, with fireplaces and bells; the attic, with its brick parabolic arches where “L’Espai Gaudí” is located and, on the top floor, a recreation of the bourgeois ways of life of the modernist era. You can also visit the lobby with the two open spaces; the main floor, where temporary exhibitions are held, and the basement, the old carriage car park, where the auditorium is located.
The building has 1,323 m² built per floor on a plot of 1,620 m². Gaudí began the first sketches in his workshop of the Sagrada Família, where he conceived the house as a constant curve, both outside and inside, incorporating multiple solutions of regulated geometry, as well as elements of a naturalistic nature..
Casa Milà is the result of two buildings that are structured around two courtyards that illuminate the nine levels: basement, ground floor, mezzanine, the main floor (or noble), four upper floors and an attic. The basement was used as a garage, the main floor was the residence of the Milanese gentlemen, a flat of 1,323 m², and the rest was distributed in 20 homes for rent. The resulting plant has an asymmetrical “8” shape due to the different shape and size of the courtyards. The attic, which housed the laundries and drying racks, forms an insulating space of the building and at the same time determines the different levels of the roof.
One of the most prominent parts is the roof, crowned with bells or stairwells, fans and fireplaces. All these elements, built with flat brick covered with lime, broken marble or glass, have a specific architectural function and yet become true sculptures integrated into the building.
Casa Milà is a unique organism, where the outer form has a continuity inside. Of the floors it is necessary to emphasize the plaster ceilings with reliefs of great dynamism, the work of the wood of the doors, the windows and the furniture (unfortunately, today disappeared), as well as the design of the hydraulic pavement and different ornamental elements.
The stairs were intended for the service, as access to the houses was by elevator except on the main floor, where Gaudí added a staircase of particular configuration.
One of the most notable elements of the building is the roof, crowned with skylights, staircase exits, fans, and chimneys. All of these elements, constructed out of brick covered with lime, broken marble, or glass have a specific architectural function but are also real sculptures integrated into the building.
The apartments feature plastered ceilings with dynamic reliefs, handcrafted wooden doors, windows, and furniture, as well as hydraulic tiles and various ornamental elements.
The stairways were intended as service entries, with the main access to the apartments by elevator except for the noble floor, where Gaudí added a prominent interior staircase. Gaudí wanted the people who lived in the flats to all know each other. Therefore, there were only elevators on every other floor, so people on different floors would meet one another.
In terms of structure, the Casa Milà is characterized by its self-supporting stone façade, ie it is freed from the functions of a load-bearing wall by connecting to the interior structure of each floor by means of iron beams. curves surrounding the perimeter of each plant. This construction system allows, on the one hand, large openings in the façade, which facilitate the entry of light into homes, and on the other, the structuring of the different levels in free floor plan, so that all walls can be demolished without affecting the stability of the building. This made it possible to change the partitions at will and modify, without problems, the interior distribution of the houses.
The façade is made up of large blocks of limestone from the Garraf to the first floor and the Vilafranca quarry for the upper floors. The blocks were cut on the front plot following the projection of the model, then climbed to their location where they were adjusted to align them in a continuous curvilinear texture with the pieces around them.
Viewed from the outside, three parts can be distinguished: the main body of the six floors with sinuous stone blocks; the two attic floors, a set back block, with a change of pace in the ripples resembling sea waves, with a smoother, whiter texture, with small gaps that look like small windows; and finally, the body of the roof.
Some bars on the ground floor have disappeared from Gaudí’s original façade. In 1928, the Mosella tailor’s shop, which was La Pedrera’s first shop, carried out some work and removed the bars. This issue did not concern anyone, since, in the midst of Noucentisme, twisted irons were not very important. The track was lost until a few years later some Americans donated one of them to the MoMa, where it is on display.
As part of the restoration work begun in 1987, some pieces of stone that had fallen were re-incorporated into the façade. In order to respect fidelity as much as possible, original material was obtained from the Vilafranca quarry, although it was already inoperative.
The three facades, 30 meters high, contain 150 windows, with different structural solutions, shapes and sizes, the lower ones being larger and the upper ones smaller, which receive more light. The stone used for its construction comes from two sources, one harder, from Garraf, in the lower part; and another less hard, from Villafranca del Panadés, at the top. Both give a cream-white finish, which generates different shades according to the incident light, and are finished with a rough texture, which provides an organic appearance.
Façade of Passeig de Gracia: facing southwest, it is 21.15 meters long and 630 m² in size, with nine balconies facing the street. It is crowned with the word Ave del Ave Maria, with a decoration in relief of lilies, symbol of the purity of the Virgin. It is the only one that does not have an access door. The part belonging to this façade on the ground floor was used as a coal bunker, and originally had bars, which were removed when it was transformed into commercial stores.
Chamfer facade: it is 20.10 meters long, and being the central one it is the best known of the building. It houses one of the two access doors, flanked by two large columns (usually nicknamed “elephant legs”) that support the tribune on the main floor, that of the Milà couple. Apparently, for the door and gallery Gaudí was inspired by the work of a baroque architect from Madrid, Pedro de Ribera. The roof of the grandstand has a skylight to provide light, under which a sculpted shell sits. At the top of the facade is a rosein relief, and the initial M for Mary, which would have been the base of the sculpture of Mary and the archangels that was not finally placed. On the two sides of the chamfer, the words Gratia and Plena del Ave María are found at the top.
Facade of Provenza Street: it is 43.35 meters long, making it the longest, and has an access door to the building. Oriented to the southeast, it receives light practically all day, so Gaudí designed it with more undulations than in the other two facades, as well as more protruding balconies, to create more shade. At the top are the words Dominus and Tecum del Ave María.
Along with these facades, we must mention the rear façade, which overlooks the internal courtyard of the block formed by Passeig de Gracia and Provenza, Roussillon and Pau Claris streets, not visible to the general public, since only residents have access. It is 25 meters long, with an area of 800 m². More sober than the main façade, it nevertheless presents the same undulating shape, with an offset between the different floors that form entrances and projections, emulating the sea waves, with large terraces with lightly designed iron railings in the shape of diamonds, which they allow the passage of light. This façade is made of a reddish-brown stuccoed cement and lime coating.
The interior of Casa Milà is designed in a functional way for a fluid communication between the various parts of the building. To do this, the ground floor has two entrances with lobbies that connect exterior and interior, and that connect with the two patios of lights, also favoring interior transit between the two areas of the building. The two wide portals allow the passage of vehicles, which after the entrance lobbies can access the lower garage through ramps that lead to the basement. For access to the houses, Gaudí prioritized the use of elevators, reserving the stairs as auxiliary access and for common services. However, for access to the main floor he placed two large stairways, decorated with wall paintings.
Lobby and courtyards
La Pedrera presents an absolutely original solution in the resolution of the lobby because it is not a closed and dark space, but open and open for its connection with the inner courtyards, which also gain importance as a place of passage and directly visible for those who access the building. There are two courtyards, round on the Passeig de Gràcia side and elliptical on Carrer Provença.
The two lobbies are entirely polychrome with oil murals on plaster surface, showing a very eclectic repertoire of mythological and floral references.
The courtyards, structurally, are a key piece, as they support the loads of the interior facades. The floor of the courtyards rests on cast iron pillars. In the elliptical courtyard, the beams and beams adopt a traditional construction solution, but in the cylindrical one, Gaudí applied an ingenious solution by using two cylindrical and concentric beams tensioned by radial beams that, as if they were the spokes of a bicycle, go from a point of the outer beam against two points -upper and lower- of the central beam that acts as a keystoneand works in tension and compression simultaneously. In this way a structure twelve meters in diameter is supported with a piece of maximum beauty and considered “the soul of the building” with a clear resemblance to the Gothic crypts. The central piece was built in a shipyard and Josep Maria Carandell assimilates it to the rudder wheel, interpreting Gaudí’s intention to represent the rudder of the ship of life.
The access, protected by an immense forged door with a design attributed to Jujol, was common for people and cars, through which they accessed the garage of the basement, today converted into an auditorium.
During construction a problem arose in adapting the basement as a car garage, the new invention that excited the bourgeoisie. The future neighbor Antoni Feliu Prats, owner of Industrial Linera, asked for a correction in the access, because his Rolls Royce could not access it. Gaudí agreed to remove a pillar on the ramp leading to the garage. Thus, Feliu, who had the sales establishment in Carrer de Fontanella and the factory in Parets del Vallès, could go to both places with his car from La Pedrera.
As pavements for the Milan house, Gaudí used a square-shaped parquet model with two-colored wood, as well as a hydraulic pavement of blue hexagonal pieces and marine motifs that had been initially designed for in the Batlló house but which had not been used and which Gaudí recovered for La Pedrera. It had been designed in gray wax by Joan Bertran, under the supervision of Gaudí, who “retouched it with his own fingers”, in the words of the builder Josep Bayó i Font.
Patios, structurally, are key as supporting loads of interior facades. The floor of the courtyard is supported by pillars of cast iron. In the courtyard, there are traditional elliptical beams and girders but Gaudí applied an ingenious solution of using two concentric cylindrical beams with stretched radial beams, like the spokes of a bicycle. They form a point outside of the beam to two points above and below, making the function of the central girder a keystone and working in tension and compression simultaneously. This supported structure is twelve feet in diameter and is considered “the soul of the building” with a clear resemblance to Gothic crypts. The centerpiece was built in a shipyard by Josep Maria Carandell who copied a steering wheel, interpreting Gaudí’s intent as to represent the helm of the ship of life.
Access is protected by a massive iron gate with a design attributed to Jujol. It was originally used by both people and cars, as access to the garage is in the basement, now an auditorium.
The two halls are fully polychrome with oil paintings on the plaster surfaces, with eclectic references to mythology and flowers.
During construction there was a problem including a basement as a garage for cars, the new invention that was thrilling the bourgeois at the time. The future neighbor Felix Anthony Meadows, owner of Industrial Linera, requested a change because his Rolls Royce could not access it. Gaudí agreed to remove a pillar on the ramp that led into the garage so that Felix, who was establishing sales and factory in Walls of Valles, could go to both places with his car from La Pedrera.
For the floors of Casa Milà, Gaudí used a model of floor forms of square timbers with two colors, and the hydraulic pavement hexagonal pieces of blue and sea motifs that had originally been designed for the Batllo house. The wax was designed in gray by John Bertrand under the supervision of Gaudí who “touched up with their own fingers,” in the words of the manufacturer Josep Bay.
Like in Casa Batlló, Gaudí shows the application of the catenary arch as a support structure for the roof, a form which he had already used shortly after graduating in the wood frameworks of Mataró’s cooperative known as “L’Obrera Mataronense.” In this case, Gaudí used the Catalan technique of timbrel, imported from Italy in the fourteenth century.
The attic, where the laundry rooms were located, was a clear room under a Catalan vault roof supported by 270 parabolic vaults of different heights and spaced by about 80 cm. The roof resembles both the ribs of a huge animal and a palm, giving the roof-deck a very unconventional shape similar to a landscape of hills and valleys. The shape and location of the courtyards makes the arches higher when the space is narrowed and lower when the space expands.
The builder Bayó explained its construction: “First the face of a wide wall was filled with mortar and plastered. Then Canaleta indicated the opening of each arch and Bayó put a nail at each starting point of the arch at the top of the wall. From these nails was dangled a chain so that the lowest point coincided with the deflection of the arch. Then the profile displayed on the wall by the chain was drawn and on this profile the carpenter marked and placed the corresponding centering, and the timbrel vault was started with three rows of plane bricks. Gaudí wanted to add a longitudinal axis of bricks connecting all vaults at their keystones”.
The roof and chimneys
Gaudí’s work on the roof of La Pedrera collects the experiences of the Palau Güell but with a clearly more avant-garde solution, creating forms and volumes of more entity, with more prominence and with less polychromy than in that one.
On the roof there are a total of 30 chimneys, two ventilation towers and six stair exits, designed with different stylistic solutions. The stair exits depart from the attic through cylindrical bodies that house spiral staircases, and which on the roof become small conical towers, up to 7.80 meters high, built in brick plastered with lime mortar., with a trencadís cladding – the original design made up of ceramic pieces that Gaudí had already used in several of his works, such as the running bench in Park Güell – the four facing the street, and with a stucco finishocher the two facing the interior of the block. In turn, the two most visible from the street – the chamfer – have a helical undulation in their trunk, while the rest have a flared body. Finally, all the stair exits are topped with the typical Gaudinian four-armed cross, although with a different design for each tower.
The ventilation towers are located on the rear facade that faces the interior of the block, and are the exits of the ventilation ducts that start from the basement. They are made of brick plastered with yellow mortar, and have a different design: one is 5.40 meters high, with a hexagonal shape similar to a covered cup, perforated with two oval- shaped holes; the other, 5.60 meters, has an original form of organic undulations, similar to several superimposed masks, like several Moebius strips with holes in their central part. The abstract forms of these towers have been considered by many scholars as an antecedent of 20th century abstract sculpture. Salvador DaliIt was a great admirer of these towers, with which photographed in 1951.
Chimneys are one of the most famous and unique elements on the roof, and the one that has most generated all kinds of speculations and hypotheses about their origin and symbolism. There are a total of 30 fireplaces, arranged in groups or individually, and scattered throughout the entire length of the terrace. Built in brick plastered with ocher mortar, they have a body that rotates on itself in a helical shape, and finished off with a small dome that, in most cases, has a shape similar to a warrior’s helmet, although there are a few with different design, like some that look like the top of a tree, made with pieces of green cava bottles.
Likewise, in one of the chimneys Gaudí placed a heart pointing towards Reus, his place of birth, while on the other side a heart and a tear point towards the Sagrada Familia, a fact that some experts interpret as a sign of sadness for not being able to see it finished; some other fireplaces have crosses, Xs letters and various other signs of the symbolic universe enigmatic Gaudí. The shape of the chimneys has been reproduced in numerous elements related to Gaudí, such as in the Roman soldiers of the Veronica group located on the Passion facade of the Sagrada Familia, which the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs made in homage to the architect. The film director George Lucas was also inspired by them for the helmets of the imperial soldiersand the evil Darth Vader in the Star Wars saga. Likewise, this iconographic element was chosen to make the statuettes for the Gaudí Awards, which are given annually by the Catalan Film Academy, and which consist of 35 cm high bronze figures, designed by Montserrat Ribé based on the shapes Gaudinian women present on the roof of La Pedrera.
Gaudí, as he had already done in the Casa Batlló, designed specific furniture for the noble floor. It was part of the conception of an integral work of art typical of modernism in which the architect assumes responsibility for both global aspects such as structure or facade, as well as each of the details of decoration, furniture design and accessories, such as streetlights, planters, pavements or ceilings.
This was another point of friction with Mrs. Milan, who complained that there was no straight wall to house her Steinway piano, which Roser Segimon played often and quite well. Gaudí’s response was forceful: “Well, play the violin.”
The consequence of these disagreements has been the loss of Gaudí’s decorative legacy, due to the change of furniture and the transformation of the distribution of the noble flat that the owner made when Gaudí died. Some loose pieces remain in some private collections, such as a screen made of 4 m oak. long by 1.96 m. high that can be seen in the Museum of Catalan Modernism; a chair and table from Pere Milà’s desk and some other complementary element.
As for the oak doors sculpted by gouge by the groomsmen of Casas i Bardés, only the ones on the Milan floor and the sample floor were made, because when Mrs. Milan knew the price, she decide that no more of this quality would be made.
Gaudí gave the city a geological landscape, a sea cliff, an abstract sculpture with organic shapes of gigantic sizes. Casa Milà is, in fact, the triumph of the curved line, which is imposed with a rotundity never seen before.
Gaudí’s inspiration from La Pedrera on a mountain is obvious, although there is no agreement on what the reference model was. Joan Bergós thought that these were the rocks of Fra Guerau in the Sierra de Prades. Joan Matamala thought that the model could have been Sant Miquel del Fai, while the sculptor Vicente Vilarubias believes that it was inspired by the cliffs of Torrent de Pareis in Menorca. Other options are the mountains of Uçhisar in Cappadocia, which Juan Goytisolo or La Mola think of Gallifa, according toLluís Permanyer, based on the fact that Gaudí visited the area in 1885, fleeing an outbreak of cholera in Barcelona.
Some say that the interior layout of La Pedrera comes from Gaudí’s studies of medieval fortresses. An image that is reinforced on the roof by the similarity of the chimneys and the “sentinels” with large helmets at the exits of the stairs. The wrought iron structure of the entrance doors to the lobby avoids following any symmetry, straight line or repetitive scheme. On the contrary, his vision evokes soap bubbles that form between the hands or plant cell structures.
Gaudí had a team of architects who supported him in drafting the project and supervising the work who were regular collaborators of the architect, such as Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Joan Rubió i Bellver and Josep Canaleta and Blocks. This team was working on a studio set up in a part of the previous building, before it was completely demolished. Gaudí’s sketches were drawn on a map, from which the plaster model sculptor Joan Beltran built a model.
The builder chosen by Gaudí was the same as that of the Batlló house, Josep Bayó i Font, while his brother Jaume was in charge of the calculation of structures.
Gaudí had had Jujol in certain designs of the Batlló house. In La Pedrera, the intervention takes shape in the design of the forging of the balconies, the stucco reliefs of the ceiling of the first floor (which would be inspiration for the ceiling of the Metropol Theater of Tarragona) and the paintings of the ceiling of the entrance. More specifically, Jujol designed one of the balconies working on wrought iron in the workshop of the Badia brothers and the rest were made directly by the blacksmith under the supervision of Jujol.
Regarding the decorative painting, the artists who took part are: Iu Pascual, Teresa Lostau, Xavier Nogués, Lluís Morell i Comet and Aleix Clapés. Little has been written about the paintings in the lobbies, and some authors have even pointed out that they did not live up to the modernity represented by La Pedrera. However, they are an essential part of the building’s decorative repertoire, which also spread to the interiors of homes, although these have unfortunately disappeared. The lobby project consisted of a series of murals that mimicked mythological-themed tapestries from the National Heritage collection. The god Pan touching the syringe, a garden, capital sins, bouquets of flowers, the god Vertumne transforming to fall in love with the goddess Pomona, a feast, a sun, an eagle and even a shipwreck, are some of the scenes of the paintings distributed between the two lobbies of the entrances to La Pedrera. According to the latest research by Dr. Carlos Alejandro Lupercio can certify the authorship and identify the scenes represented.
The sculpture, in addition to the model Joan Beltran, was attended by Carles Mani i Roig and Joan Matamala i Flotats.
One of the singularities of La Pedrera is that it is still a residential building, with four families still living for rent. In this link you can see some interviews conducted in 2008 with some of the residents.
As part of the centenary of the construction of La Pedrera in 2012, the “La Pedrera inèdita” project was launched, which allows the discovery of previously unpublished, or very little known, documents, writings and oral stories. relating to the history of La Pedrera between 1906, when construction began, and 1986, when it was acquired by Caixa Catalunya.
Through this project it has become known that one of the first residents one of the first residents was Paco Abadal, a well-known sportsman and owner of the car brand Abadal y Cía. Another illustrious resident was, who had the seat of the consulate on the 1st-2nd of the House of Milan. In the contribution you can read part of his memoirs where the consolation describes what it was like to live in La Pedrera: “I lived then in the most striking and strange house in Barcelona, (…) located on Paseo de Gracia, on the corner of Calle de Provenza, where great things were told. (…) That cyclopean mansion with a large window, those protruding and disconcerting balconies and especially those thick, crooked columns that seem to collapse, (…) seduced me, attracted me, like everything that comes out of vulgarity.. You can also consult everything related to the interior decoration of the so-called “Gache Floor” of which the only photographs of period interiors are preserved.
On the same landing and in the same years lived the Egyptian prince Ibrahim Hassan, He was a diplomat, businessman and in Barcelona he was president of the Casa Gomis – Rabassada Tram Company, which served the defunct Casino de la Rabassada. And Teresa Mestre de Baladia, the Well Planted by Eugeni d’Ors, the beautiful woman, admired by all and enigmatic muse who will become an icon of Noucentisme and the essence of the reborn Catalanness, also stayed there.
Among other stories, the news of a Pension that was installed in the mezzanine of La Pedrera stands out: La Pensión Hispano-Americana. The first use that was given to the mezzanine of La Pedrera, before the Sastreria Mosella was installed there, was the restaurant of the Pensión Hispano-Americana: « In the renowned building on Paseo de Gracia, chamfer Provence, which has deserved, for its original architecture, the comments of the most eminent critics in Europe, is installed the Spanish-American Pension, of all first order, and which occupies the upper rooms and the vast mezzanines and basements of the said building. ”
In 1975 Michelangelo Antonioni used La Pedrera as the setting for the film The Reporter with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider. Later, The Last Afternoons with Teresa, by Gonzalo Herralde (1983), Gaudí, by Manuel Huerga (1988), Els mars del sud, by Manuel Esteban (1992) were shot there. Some scenes from the film Gaudi Afternoon, a comedy by Susan Seidelman, were also filmed in 2001. An unknown Swiss “cult” film The Unknown of Shandigor, directed by Jean-Louis Roy in 1967, has recently been added to the list.
In 2014 La Pedrera appeared in the film Rastres de Sàndal, the first feature-length fiction film produced by Pontas Films, directed by Maria Ripoll, with Nandita Das and Aina Clotet. The film won the 2015 Gaudí Award for Best Film.
Criticism and controversy
The building’s unconventional style made it the subject of much criticism. It was given the nickname “La Pedrera”, meaning “the quarry”. Casa Milà appeared in many satirical magazines. Joan Junceda presented it as a traditional “Easter cake” by means of cartoons in Patufet. Joaquim Garcia made a joke about the difficulty of setting the damask wrought iron balconies in his magazine. Homeowners in Passeig de Gracia became angry with Milà and ceased to greet him, arguing that the weird building by Gaudí would lower the price of land in the area.
Casa Milà also caused some administrative problems. In December 1907 the City Hall stopped work on the building because of a pillar which occupied part of the sidewalk, not respecting the alignment of facades. Again on August 17, 1908, more problems occurred when the building surpassed the predicted height and borders of its construction site by 4,000 square metres (43,000 sq ft). The Council called for a fine of 100,000 pesetas (approximately 25% of the cost of work) or for the demolition of the attic and roof. The dispute was resolved a year and a half later, December 28, 1909, when the Commission certified that it was a monumental building and thus not required to have a ‘strict compliance’ with the bylaws.
The owner entered La Pedrera in the annual Barcelona Artistic Buildings Competition sponsored by the Barcelona City Council (Ayuntament). Other entries in the competition included two works by Sagnier (Calle Mallorca 264, and one on Corsica and Av. Diagonal), the Casa Gustà by architect Jaume Gustà, and the Casa Pérez Samanillo, designed by Joan Josep Hervàs . Although the most dramatic and clear favorite was Casa Milà, the jury opined that even though the facades were complete, “there’s still a lot left to do before it’s fully completed, finalized and in a perfect state of appreciation.” The winner in 1910 was Samanillo Perez, for his building which now houses the headquarters of the Circulo Ecuestre.
Gaudí’s relations with Segimon deteriorated during the construction and decoration of the house. There were many disagreements between them, one example was the monumental bronze virgin del Rosario, which Gaudí wanted as the statue on the front of the building in homage to the name of the owner, that the artist Carles Mani i Roig was to sculpt. The statue was not made although the words “Ave gratia M plena Dominus tecum” were written at the top of the facade. Continuing disagreements led Gaudí to take Milà to court over his fees. The lawsuit was won by Gaudí in 1916, and he gave the 105,000 pesetas he won in the case to charity, stating that “the principles mattered more than money.” Milà was having to pay the mortgage.
After Gaudí’s death in 1926, Segimon got rid of most of the furniture that Gaudí had designed and covered over parts of Gaudí’s designs with new decorations in the style of Louis XVI. La Pedrera was acquired in 1986 by Caixa Catalunya and when restoration was done four years later, some of the original decorations re-emerged.
When the Civil War broke out in July 1936, the Milàs were on vacation. Part of the building was collectivized by the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia; the Milàs fled the area with some artwork.