In June 1905, Rosario Segimon de Milà purchased the 1,835 m2 plot on which La Pedrera was to be built. At the time she bought it, this plot was partly taken up by a three-storey house with basements and rooftop terrace, which with its surrounding gardens and perimeter wall occupied the total surface area of the site. This building, along with so many others in the area, was completely demolished to make way for the new Barcelona that was taking shape as construction of the Eixample progressed.
The owners must have had the intention of constructing a block of apartments on the recently acquired plot from the very start, because just a few months after buying the land, Milà applied to the relevant department of the City Council for permission to knock down the original building. Within five months, the plans drawn up by Gaudí (dated the 2nd of February 1906) were presented, and authorization was sought to begin work. The drawings that are preserved correspond to the floorplans and elevations of the façade.
Mireia Freixa, Professor of Art History at the University of Barcelona, presents the set of plans of the building in an excellent article on Gaudi’s drawings, projects and models that is part of the publication Gaudí up close (Artika Collection, 2020) – a spectacular art book with 48 drawings by Gaudí -. The edition allows us to see the original size of the architectural plans, as well as the quality of the drawings, thanks to the careful and selected edition. Regarding the drawings plans of La Pedrera-Casa Milà, Mireia Freixa indicates that two sets of original plans are preserved: the official ones in the archives of Barcelona City Council and another set in the Gaudí Chair of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. In the drop-down of the elevation of the façade, in black and red Chinese ink, Freixa highlights the beautiful work of calligraphy specifying, in pre-normative Catalan: «Fatxade», «Passeig de Gràcia, chamfer and Carrer de Provença» , "Escale of 0.01 mtr per meter" and at the foot of the date, the signatures of the architect, Gaudí, and the owners, Rosario S. of Milà and Pere Milà.
Antoni Gaudí. Fatxade [Casa Milà], 1906. Plànol: tinta xina sobre paper tela. Mides: 49,5 cm. x 93,5 cm. ©Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · Barcelona Tech (UPC). Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona. Càtedra Gaudí. CG-00222.
Analyzing the drawing plan in detail, we can figure out that the definition and design of the façade of La Pedrera-Casa Milà are fruit of a long evolution and of great dedication on the part of Gaudí. Here Gaudí’s essential ideas can clearly be seen, and they have nothing to do with the historicist reinterpretations he had applied to previous buildings. In these plans, the façade the architect proposed still has many points in common with solutions applied to Casa Batlló. That is, a set of balconies and galleries regularly and rhythmically distributed although still obeying the classical criterion of window-plus-balcony. His purpose here was not only to make openings in the façade to illuminate and ventilate the interior of the building but also to create a great façade with its own rhythm, achieved through the combination between hollow and filled-in sections, between the solidity of stone and the lightness provided by openings, either windows, galleries, or balconies. Gaudí proposes a maximum occupancy of the site and a distribution of the building in basement, semi-basement, six floors of apartments, mezzanine, attic, and roof-terrace, with a volume that far exceeds what the ordinances allow. Also in terms of heights, the legally established levels will be exceeded, irregularities that will not be corrected, but quite the opposite, when carrying out the construction of the building, to the point that in August 1908, the date on which the work would reach its final height and volume, Barcelona City Council would officially communicate to the owerns that the set exceeded by 4,000 m3 the volume that corresponded to it according to the ordinances, and that part of the fifth floor and everything on it was it was scandalously moving away from legal norms. According to Mireia Freixa, as was common in Gaudí, the original design of the façade does not correspond to the one finally built. In one of the corners of the drawing of the façade, Gaudí presented a large four-armed cross, which was not built; nor do the profiles of the stair towers and chimneys, which are one of the most distinctive elements of the built building, appear. In the upper part, on the other hand, there is a sketch of the sculpture of the Virgin of the Roser, which was never made. On the other hand, Freixa shows the map of the third floor,"Plante de 3ª estade" according to Gaudi nomenclature. This plan of the floor allows us to understand the flexibility of the distribution of the spaces of the two blocks of the building, around the central courtyards, which gives a great fluidity between the interior and the exterior space. At the same time, it is interested in defining the names of all the rooms «Entrade, Cambre, Sale, Menjador, Salete, Saló, Recambre, Recambró, Corredor, Serveis» (entrance, room, líving room, dinning room, small room, service rooms), which allows to deduce the program of the housing. Likewise, service scales are identified at the ends, but it does not draw what would be one of the great contributions of construction: the elevators.
Antoni Gaudí. Plante de 3re estade [Casa Milà], 1906. Plan: Chinese ink on canvas paper ©Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · Barcelona Tech (UPC). Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona. Càtedra Gaudí. CG-000225.
Gaudí up close by Artika Collection provides an excellent opportunity to delve into Gaudí draftsman, identifying styles and characteristics. Unique and remarkable, like its architecture.