One of the highlights of Barcelona is to visit the seven Unesco designated works of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet ( June 25, 1852 – June 10, 1926) The word “gaudy” to me means: a bit over the top, way more is better and do you really like that? And that describes Gaudí’s works too: highly individualized with a one-of-a-kind style. His works are like no one else’s and considering most were done in the early 1900’s his style would have been quite shocking! Gaudí’s work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion. He considered every detail of his creations, integrating into his architecture such crafts as waste ceramic pieces, stained glass, wrought ironwork, and carpentry. It is said that the evening the Casa Milá was complete, a party was held, and he used the smashed champagne bottles to add more detail to one of the roof-top structures. Gaudí’s Roman Catholic faith intensified during his life and religious images appear in many of his works, culminating with his masterpiece, the still-incomplete Sagrada Família, the most-visited monument in Spain. (More about that in another post)
Gaudí’s first projects were the lampposts he designed for the Plaça Reial, in Barcelona. Aren’t these quite the lampposts? Which one do you like best? I like the wrap around pole that provides the lighting on the street and on the sidewalk and also seating at the bottom!
So what is Casa Milà?
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Barcelona was buzzing with excitement. The World Fair had brought major design changes to the city, where other first-of-a-kind buildings were built. In 1906, Roser Segimon, a rich widow, who owned coffee plantations in Guatemala and her new husband Pere Milà, commissioned Gaudí to build a building to be used as their residence in Barcelona. Casa Milà was Gaudí’s last commissioned private residence and all the bells and whistles were put into this project. It was very controversial at the time, because of the stone facade, twisting wrought iron balconies, an open floor-plan, underground garage, and roof garden. The people of Barcelona nicknamed the building La Pedrera or “the stone quarry” due to it’s unconventional look and that was just the outside! Many neighbors saw it as an eyesore and did not approve. The building was finished and approved by 1912, but only after Gaudí had taken out some of the religious statues, provided a wall that did not curve so the Steinway piano could be placed, (Gaudí first suggested Mrs Milà give up the piano and play the violin instead) and widened the ramp to allow Rolls-Royce cars to use it. Can you imagine?
Today Casa Milà is a museum…….so let’s take a look at this fabulous building……… Walking into the entry, it is bright and airy due to the use of sky lights, unheard of at the time. A set of huge wrought iron gates leads to the elevators and the lower level garages. The Milà family residence was on the main floor and the other floors were rented out to other well-to-do families. However, Gaudí only placed an elevator opening to every other floor. He wanted all the families to meet and mingle. A grand curved staircase led to the Milà’s apartment. Now let’s go up to the rooftop and work our way down.
One of the most notable elements of the building is the roof, crowned with skylights, staircase exits, fans, and chimneys. All of these elements, constructed out of brick covered with lime, broken marble or glass, have a specific architectural function, but are also real sculptures integrated into the building.
This piece reminds me of a honey comb.
I think these pieces look like owls!
He designed the building as a constant curve, both outside and inside. Casa Milà is formed by two buildings, forming a figure eight, around two courtyards that provide light. There are nine stories: the basement, ground floor, mezzanine, main or noble floor, four upper floors ( which provided twenty apartments) and an attic, which was the laundry.
Now let’s go inside!
He made a smaller version of Casa Milà and used it as a model, as well as using drawings on paper. It gives you an idea of the total look and the affect of the residence in the neighborhood.
Here is the attic that was used as a laundry. It was a big open tunnel.
The apartments feature plastered ceilings with dynamic reliefs, handcrafted wooden doors, windows, and furniture, as well as hydraulic tiles and various ornamental elements. He designed the furniture as well. The apartment we viewed was a series of rather small rooms I thought, but the average city dweller, (family of four in Barcelona today), live in approximately 1000 square foot apartments. All of these rooms would have seemed like a palace and the amenities too good to be true! Mrs. Milà was not so crazy about some of the furnishings Gaudí designed for her. They didn’t look very comfortable to me either. Gaudí spent so much money on hand-made oak doors, she decided they would only be in her apartment.
And here are some of the rooms……. a bedroom……
a sewing room……
the living area……..I love the tile on the floor…….
The dining room………
a huge bath……..with curved closet doors………..
You can see the rooms flowed into each other…..
and there was plenty of natural light…..
and interior windows with half doors……….
more interior doors and windows…….
and a telephone……..with a really long cord.
There were many complaints about the building at the time it was being built. City Hall stopped work on the building because of a pillar which occupied part of the sidewalk, and the roof line and attic space were deemed higher than regulations permitted. It was really stop and go during all of the construction. Gaudí at one point decided to leave the project, but was convinced by a priest to keep on working and designing and after six years the building was completed and ready to move in. During construction there were many details left undone due to the rising costs of the project and fines for building infractions.
After Gaudí’s death Mrs Milà sold some of the furniture that she never liked.
The building did not respect any rules of conventional style, for which Gaudí received much criticism. But, I am so glad it is still here to see! Although it has taken on many changes over the years, ( it was sold after WWII and modified) it was brought back to the original design and made into the museum that is a must see for anyone visiting Barcelona! Next let’s go to Park Güell, another famous Gaudí landmark! See you there!