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Casa Mila (La Pedrera): A Masterpiece of Modern Architecture

Model of the curtain wall, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera. Antoni Gaudi's Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, is a shining example of his innovative approach to architecture. This iconic building stands out for its...

arquitectura pedrera maqueta casa mila Model of the curtain wall, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

Antoni Gaudi's Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, is a shining example of his innovative approach to architecture. This iconic building stands out for its groundbreaking constructional and functional solutions that pushed the boundaries of contemporary architectural styles.

At the heart of Barcelona's Eixample district, Casa Mila is composed of two apartment blocks, each with its own entrance. The building revolves around two interconnected courtyards, featuring ramps leading down to a garage for vehicles.

A Façade that Redefines Tradition

arquitectura pedrera forja natura arquitectura pedrera facana Detail of a hoopoe bird on the grille of the show apartment, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera. © Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona. c. 1910.

The façade of La Pedrera is a departure from traditional load-bearing walls. Instead, it features a curtain wall, where the blocks of stone, connected to the structure by metal components, create large windows that flood the interior with natural light. The façade incorporates different types of stone, including limestone from Garraf, stone from Vilafranca del Penedès, and limestone from Ulldecona.

The Beauty of Wrought Iron

arquitectura pedrera forja Photographer: Josep Maria Martino, c. 1914, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

The wrought-iron grilles of La Pedrera's balconies showcase Gaudi's ingenuity and craftsmanship. Made from scrap iron sheets, bars, and chains, these grilles contribute to the building's unique aesthetic and are considered precursors to 20th-century abstract sculpture. Each balcony grille was meticulously crafted in the workshops of the Badia brothers in Barcelona, with various parts joined together using screws and rivets.

Functional and Artistic Entrance Doors

arquitectura pedrera porta casa mila Photographer: Josep Maria Martino, c. 1914, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

Gaudi's innovative approach to entrance doors at La Pedrera is worth noting. With large sheets of glass unavailable at the time, he fitted irregular-shaped panes together, creating a combination of smaller, protected pieces at the bottom and larger, more luminous panes at the top. These doors serve both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, opening in the middle for vehicles and to the sides for pedestrians.

Daylight-Basements and their Grilles

arquitectura pedrera estructura exterior arquitectura pedrera finestres forja Grilles on the ground floor, 1946, ©Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya / Joaquim Gomis. Grilles on the ground floor, 1946 ©Foto Aleu.

La Pedrera's daylight-basements feature large openings protected by iron grilles. The grille design shown in the photograph is believed to be Gaudi's original creation, while others were mass-produced based on the same design to fit the available space. Over time, most of these grilles were removed as the basements were converted into commercial premises. A few have been preserved, including two at the Passeig de Gràcia entrance and a replica on the Carrer de Provença façade.

Basement: Anticipating Modern Needs

arquitectura pedrera soterrani gaudi Model of the structure in the basement, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

Anticipating the needs of modern life, Gaudi introduced a garage for coaches and cars in the basement of Casa Mila. To maximize space, he utilized slender iron columns and an innovative metal structure resembling a bicycle wheel to support the courtyard floor above. This strategic use of iron reduced the built volume while providing ample maneuvering space.

Courtyards: A Breath of Fresh Air

Gaudi's innovation extended to the courtyards of Casa Mila. Instead of small ventilation shafts, he incorporated two large courtyards to enhance lighting and ventilation for all 16 apartments.

Exquisite Wall Paintings in the Entrance Halls

arquitectura pedrera patis tapis natura arquitectura pedrera tapis gaudi Passeig de Gràcia entrance hall, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera. Tapestry of Vertumnus transformed into a harvester, 16th century, ©National Heritage Collection.

The entrance halls of La Pedrera feature magnificent wall paintings commissioned from Symbolist painter Aleix Clapés. These paintings depict tapestries on mythological themes, adding a touch of grandeur to the building's interior. One hall showcases tapestries portraying the love between Vertumnus, the god of seasons, and Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees and gardens. The other hall combines different tapestries inspired by the cardinal sins, the Heroes of the Trojan War, and the Adventures of Telemachus.

Apartments: Open, Spacious, and Unique

arquitectura pedrera maqueta gaudi La Pedrera general plastel model: structure of stone and brick pillars ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

Gaudi's structural system of pillars made of stone, brick, or iron allowed him to create open-plan apartments without the need for load-bearing walls. This innovation provided freedom in distributing the interior space, resulting in unique and spacious floor plans.

Beautifully Designed Ceilings

arquitectura pedrera sostres gaudi Detail of a ceiling in the mezzanine, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

The ceilings inside the apartments at Casa Mila are a sight to behold. Gaudi's designs showcase his ability to combine nature-inspired motifs with classical geometrical forms, resulting in breathtakingly intricate patterns. Each ceiling tells a story, blending culture, tradition, and the forces of nature. Some feature high relief designs, while others bear inscriptions or poems, all in harmony with the undulating rhythms of the building's façade.

The Artistry of Decorative Elements

arquitectura pedrera poms portes gaudi arquitectura pedrera terres Detail from the Design audio-visual presentation in the Espai Gaudí, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera. Hexagonal tile with relief motifs inspired by marine life: an octopus, a starfish, and a conch shell. Hydraulic cement. ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

Gaudi's attention to detail extends to the decorative elements found throughout La Pedrera. His handles and knobs feature simple, anthropomorphic shapes that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also easy to use. The flooring exhibits hexagonal tiles with relief motifs inspired by marine life, adding a touch of whimsy and nature to the interior. Additionally, the door and window mouldings are treated as veritable works of sculpture, showcasing Gaudi's mastery in creating functional yet artistic elements.

The Pedrera Apartment: A Glimpse Into the Past

arquitectura pedrera pis casa mila Entrance and corridor in the Pedrera Apartment, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

To immerse visitors in the past, Casa Mila offers a tour of an apartment on the fourth floor, showcasing how a bourgeois family in early 20th-century Barcelona lived. The apartment features domestic furnishings and household utensils of the era, along with Gaudi's decorative elements. It provides insight into the building's interior distribution while complemented by an audio-visual presentation highlighting the city's rapid transformation during that period.

The Attic: A Unique Display

arquitectura pedrera maqueta gaudi golfes Catenary arches in the attic, ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

La Pedrera's attic was originally a communal laundry area and an insulating air chamber. Today, it houses the Gaudi Exhibition, a remarkable display dedicated to Gaudi's life and work, with models, plans, objects, photographs, and videos. This immersive experience allows visitors to gain a deeper understanding of Gaudi's genius and his remarkable contribution to architectural history.

The Roof-Terrace: A Harmonious Blend

arquitectura pedrera terrat caixa escala ©Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera.

The roof-terrace of Casa Mila showcases Gaudi's keen attention to detail and functionality. The built features, such as stairwells, ventilation towers, and chimneys, are not only architecturally striking but also serve practical purposes. Gaudi employed curving forms derived from ruled geometry, creating visually captivating elements that blend seamlessly with the overall design.

A Testament to Gaudi's Vision

Antoni Gaudi's Casa Mila, with its unique architectural features and artistic elements, stands as a testament to his visionary approach to design. La Pedrera continues to captivate visitors, offering a glimpse into Gaudi's genius and his lasting impact on the world of modern architecture.