The Casa Milà, known as La Pedrera, is a residential building designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí.
This building is located in one of the corners of Barcelona's Ensanche district. It is one of the Catalan architects' most emblematic constructions. It involved certain constructive and decorative innovations, as well as functional innovations that marked a turning point in the architecture of that period.
La Pedrera was built between 1906 and 1912. It was a direct commission of Pere Milà and Roser Segimon to the Catalan architect, with the intention of using the main floor of the building and renting out the rest of the flats.
This building is known as La Pedrera because of its exterior appearance, as it looks like an open quarry, and we can also see ornamental details inspired by the forms of nature.
The married couple Pere Milà and Roser Segimon commissioned Gaudí to build this project in 1905, and the construction began a year later. The Pedrera building aroused great interest at the time and it was the subject of several reports in publications.
The architect went over the budget for the construction of the building, and he also infringed some of the City Council's regulations, having one of the pillars of the facade occupying part of the pavement. In the end, the Eixample Commission, which had to decide on this, certified that it did not have to adapt to the municipal restrictions, as it was a monumental building. In any case, the couple had to pay a fine, and that was all.
It is not a structural facade, that is, it does not have the function of a load-bearing wall. It is an ornamental facade, like a curtain that covers the structure of the building and is connected to it by various metal elements.
In addition to the innovative curved shapes of the façade, other ornamental techniques were also used, such as wrought iron for the decorative elements of the 32 balconies, that make the building up.
This iron decoration was made with scrap metal from scrapyards. It is an ornamental element but also a complement to the architectural structure of the building. This decoration is considered to be a precedent for the abstract sculpture of the 20th century.
For the main entrance door to the building, wrought iron was also used ornamentally and functionally, as large glass panes were not available at that time, so a weave of glass in different shapes, inspired by nature, was created, with the smallest ones placed at the bottom.
In addition to small courtyards for ventilation, Gaudí designed two larger ones to increase the light and ventilation inside the flats. These courtyards are as beautiful as the exterior facade.
In the vestibules you can find different pictorial decorations by the painter Aleix Clapés. These murals show religious and mythological themes.
The interior ceilings also have extraordinary qualities too, with ornamentation in geometric shapes, volutes and spirals, and other inscriptions or poems. Some of the ceilings that Gaudí designed in the main house were replaced with the furniture and other decorative elements years later, after the architect's death, because the Milà couple did not really like them.
Antoni Gaudí paid attention to all details, making sure that, they were both functional and ornamental. That is why he used geometric shapes for door handles and other small details, but keeping the style of the building itself.
The building has a double roof. A staircase connects the last floor with the roof, where the stairwells are covered with stone, ceramic, marble or stuccoed with lime and plaster. These are small constructions that also have an ornamental function within the building as a whole.
The chimneys and ventilation towers are also protruding with a decoration of curves and spirals, marking the typical Gaudí aesthetic, where geometric lines obviate straight lines.
Over the decades, various interpretations of this building have been made, relating it to cosmological and religious concepts. In addition, back then it received a lot of criticism due to its unconventional design, especially the facade. La Pedrera was a nickname given by the city's inhabitants.
In any case, La Pedrera is Gaudí's most emblematic and representative residential building, and it is now a major tourist attraction in the city of Barcelona, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Historic-Artistic Monument of National Interest, awarded by the Spanish Government in 1969.
The Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing is a professional and international postgraduate programme that is developed on a full-time basis, dealing with advanced architectural design in the city and housing. It is designed and taught jointly by the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH).
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