Earlier this week Kongo visited Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera (the quarry) in Barcelona. This home was designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi and built in 1910. Kongo–under the guiding instruction of Mrs. Kongo–has become a bit of an architecture groupie and visiting the modernistic creation on the Passeig de Gràcia was a highlight of their stay in Spain.
The building was built as a private residence for a wealthy couple in Barcelona. Gaudi, a famous architect leading the way in new architectural designs in the modernistic form, was contracted to build the home. In those days it was the fashion for wealthy bourgeois to build these homes with a plan to rent out several floors that would pay for the construction and maintenance.
The entire structure curves and weaves in undulating lines and wavy facades and is adorned with fantastical shapes and wrought iron. There is hardly a straight line in the entire building. This was the last commercial building Gaudi built and spent the rest of his life working on the Sagrada Familia. (See Kongo’s post on Sagrada Familia here).
The building features many innovations for the time such as underground parking, built-in cabinets, undulating roof, elevators, ensuite bathroom for the master bedroom, and an outside structure that enabled the interior to be free of load bearing walls. Each of the nine levels offered about 4,000 square feet of living space.
The interior courtyard lets in a lot of natural light and provided a gathering place for carriages and parties without the prying eyes of the unwashed masses.
Gaudi believed nature provided the answers to all of the architectural problems of construction and his design favors naturally flowing shapes that provide both beauty and strength to the structure. His extensive use of parabolas, particularly in the attic to support the undulating roof, show the architect’s deep understanding of geometry in nature and the attic structure resembles the skeleton of a snake. There are, in fact, 270 parabolic arches in the attic to support the roof.
The apartments also contained furniture designed by Gaudi. He used models to design the furniture to completely conform to the human shape. Even the door knobs, cabinet pulls, and other hardware were ergonomically designed for the human hand. Skylights, large windows, interior and exterior patios, provide lots of natural light to the apartments.
A renovated apartment, done out as it would have been in 1910, can be toured by visitors.
The construction process was not without some controversy. Gaudi tangled with city planners over permits and conditions when he sometimes infringed upon the sidewalk. Some pillars had to be moved to allow a Rolls Royce motorcar to be able to fit in the garage. The wife of the owner, Pere Mila, complained that there were no straight walls where she could place her Steinway grand piano. Gaudi, famous for his blunt discourse with clients, told her to “play the violin.”
Gaudi is famous for using fantastic shapes in his design. He was also one of the the first “green” architects and used broken champagne bottles to adorn the vent pipes on the roof, as shown in the image above. Deeply religious, Gaudi also wove divine symbols into his architecture.
Many of the shapes used at Casa Mila were also incorporated at Sagrada Familia. The chimneys below resemble soldiers and at the basilica these same shapes were used to depict the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus.
Interior hallways and staircases were richly decorated. Gaudi acted as both the interior designer and architect in his projects.
Two residents, sisters, still live in La Pederara. The rest of the building has been converted to store fronts and restaurants on the ground level (Kongo and his bride ate breakfast there after their tour), offices for the Gaudi foundations, historical research facilities, and offices to manage the tours. Casa Mila was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984.
When you visit Barcelona, you MUST put Casa Mila on your to-do list. Kongo recommends you purchase your tickets online, save them to your smart phone and you will be able to skip the lines and quickly get inside.
Travel safe. Have fun.