A 'Catalan Modernisme' building
Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’, is probably one of the most famous buildings of the Catalan Modernisme or Catalan Art Nouveau period and one of the architect Antoni Gaudí’s most ambitious works. It is a container that is a work of art in itself.
Its singularity and artistic and heritage value are amply accredited by its inclusion in the city of Barcelona Artistic Heritage catalogue in 1962; by its declaration as Historical and Artistic Monument of National Interest by the Spanish government in 1969; or by its entry by UNESCO on its World Heritage list in 1984, for its exceptional universal value.
Casa Milà, ‘La Pedrera’ (1906 - 1912)
Known as La Pedrera (the stone quarry) because of its rough outer appearance, reminiscent of an open quarry, Casa Milà was commissioned by the industrialist Pere Milà i Camps and his wife, Rosario Segimon i Artells, the widow of a man from Reus who had made a fortune in the colonies, from Antoni Gaudí in 1906. The idea was to erect a building on a plot on the boundary of Barcelona and Gràcia, as a family home, but also with apartments for rent, at a time when the Barcelona Eixample had become the driving force behind the expansion of the city, which turned Passeig de Gràcia into the new bourgeois residential area.
Casa Milà was built as two apartment blocks with independent entrances linked by two large inner courtyards and a sinuous common façade that conveys the rhythm of the interior. The structure of the house is made of pillars and contains an open plan floor with large openings on the façade. The building marked a break with the architectural language of Gaudí’s work in terms of innovation in both the functional aspects and the constructive and ornamental ones.
Gaudí planned Casa Milà (1906–1912) at the age of fifty-three, when he was at the height of his powers and had found a style of his own independent of any established ones. It turned out to be his last civil work and one of the most innovatory in its functional, constructive and ornamental aspects. Indeed, thanks to his artistic and technical ideas, it has always been considered a breakthrough work, outside the concepts of the time, a rara avis in Modernisme itself and, especially, a work that anticipated the architecture of the 20th century.
Casa Milà is the fourth and final work Gaudí did on Passeig de Gràcia, the main avenue of the city at the time. It linked the old Barcelona, which by then had demolished its walls, with the town of Gràcia.
Although its official denomination is Casa Milà because it was a building initiative of that family, who also took up residence there, it was soon given the nickname ‘La Pedrera’, which alludes ironically, as we have said, to the appearance of the exterior, reminiscent of an open quarry.
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852–1926)
Antoni Gaudí is the leader of one of the decisive lines that shaped the architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries all over Europe, although he never bowed to the formal and aesthetic rules of Catalan Modernisme.
Born in Reus on 25 June 1852, he graduated as an architect in 1878. The time at which he lived –the consolidation of the process of industrialisation– meant that some of his best customers were the Barcelona bourgeoisie and the church.
Gaudí understood architecture as a total art, as we can see from the attention he paid to each of the elements that go to make up his work, from the railings of the balconies to the handles on the doors. He was also fascinated by nature and geometry and took advantage of all the technical innovations of the time. Among his outstanding works, apart from Casa Milà, are Casa Vicens, Parc Güell, Casa Batlló or La Sagrada Família.