Casa Milà, a masterpiece of the Modernism

Casa Milà, popularly known as “La Pedrera”, an ironic allusion to the resemblance of its façade to an open quarry, was constructed between 1906 and 1912 by Antoni Gaudí.  For its uniqueness, artistic and heritage value have received major recognition and in 1984 was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List, for its exceptional universal value.

Nowadays it is the headquarters of Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation and houses a cultural center that is a reference point in Barcelona for the range of activities it organizes and the different spaces for exhibitions and other public uses it contains.

The Casa Milà got the nickname “Quarry” however, because of the unusual construction. The large stone slabs were first mounted to the facade and then processed by the craftsmen. The city of Barcelona announced right after the completion that the Casa Milà was a work of art. Groundbreaking was also the construction, that Gaudí used. The house has a natural ventilation system, which makes air conditioning unnecessary and in Gaudi’s plans were provided with an elevator, however the elevator wasn’t built in the building until much later. You can move the interior walls. A concrete-steel construction, which requires no load-bearing walls makes this possible.

Casa Milà today is a beacon shining with creation and knowledge, a great container full of content, which has a crucial role to play in the transformation of society and commitment to the people.

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.

Open to the public are the hallway, the grand indoor patio, a floor completely filled with furniture designed by the architect and the terrace with several phantasmagoric chimneys, known as espantabrujas, inspired by the landscapes of the Turkish Cappadocia . From here there is beautiful view of the city.

One can also visit the so called Espacio Gaudí, in the attic, that was previously a launderette, with 270 plain brick catenary arcs that create a structure that appears like a skeleton with curious perspectives. Here there is a small museum where models of all of Gaudis´ buildings are on show as well as photographs, designs and audiovisual presentations on the life and work of the architect.

 

Gaudí furniture designs

Gaudí was an all-round artist. He didn’t see architecture as separate from other art forms and that’s why, in addition to being an innovative architect, was also an expert in ceramics, a great blacksmith, an excellent interior designer and a magnificent sculptor. He firmly believed that nature held the key to everything and for him, beauty and functionality went hand in hand.

The perfection that characterizes Gaudi’s architectural work can also be seen in his furniture. It was a precursor of ergonomic and industrial design and, as a fervent believer that nature holds the key to all perfection; he studied the human body to create furniture that fit our anatomy, always seeking out the simplest, most comfortable option for the user.

His chairs seem shaped from the mark we leave when we sit down and seek out rounded forms that fit the human form. Likewise, he disregarded any reference to style to focus exclusively on form, emphasizing the grain and texture of the wod.

His first design dates back to 1878, just after finishing his degree, and was for his own desk. His early works are marked by their structural and formal references to eclecticism and neo-gothic style. The furniture of the Chapel Mausuleum Sobrellano (1878-1881) is a good example of these creations, with a chair combining red velvet, metal legs and carefully carved walnut. The chairs from Palacio Güell and the upholstered armchairs from the main floor of Casa Calvet reflect the fastidiousness of their owners. The chaise-lounge from Palacio Güell, made of wood, iron and golden velvet, features a great wealth of details and was inspired by those from the Second French Empire.

The evolution of his furniture culminated with the pieces for the office and storeroom at Casa Calvet and the armchairs for Casa Batlló. Progressively, Gaudí began getting rid of the ornate decorative elements to highlight the form and raw materials. Each piece is a work of art with its own personality. Nevertheless, they all work together to make up the set of furnishings as a whole, fitting the space for which they were intended. More than functional objects, Gaudí created sculptures, organic pieces that were at times abstract and in many cases ahead of the surrealist lines and themes that would be seen in the following decades.

Initially, Gaudí designed the furnishings for Casa Batlló with anatomical differences between the chairs for women and those for men. Plus, his original proposals also allowed users to sit in different positions. Amalia Godó, however, was firmly against these designs and they ended up being unisex.

Source: Gaudi Experiencia

 

Do you know Antoni Gaudí’s personal history?

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born on 25 June 1852 in Camp de Tarragona. Some sources say in Reus, where he was baptised, and others at the house in Riudoms, the neighbouring village, where his family came from. His father and both his grandparents were boilermakers, and as Gaudí himself recounted, he learned his special skill in dealing with three-dimensional space by observing boilermakers at work.

As a child, Gaudi’s health was delicate, which meant that he was obliged to spend long periods of time resting at the summer house in Riudoms. There, he passed many an hour contemplating and storing up in his mind the secrets of nature, which he thought of as his supreme mistress and ultimate teacher of the highest knowledge, being the crowning achievement of the Creator.

After starting his secondary education at the Escolapian School in Reus, Antoni Gaudí moved to Barcelona in 1869 with his older brother. He completed his schooling and after meeting the entrance requirements in 1873 enrolled in the Provincial School of Architecture.

After gaining his architect’s diploma in January 1878, Gaudí set up his own firm. Some months later he was introduced to industrialist Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, with whom he struck up a lifelong friendship and professional relationship. Many of Gaudí’s works were commissioned by Güell, his most enthusiastic client.

In the final decades of the nineteenth century when he completed the Güell Palace he was already one of the most famous architects in Barcelona. This work saw the end of Gaudí’s first youthful phase, marked by a personal revision of Gothic and Muslim architecture and including buildings like Casa Vicens, El Capricho, the Güell Estate buildings, the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, the School of the Teresianas and the Episcopal Palace in Astorga.

From 1890 onwards Gaudí perfected his understanding of architectural space and the applied arts, giving his work unique and unsuspected qualities that stood out from the other Modernist architecture of his day. These were Gaudí’s mature years in which a succession of master works appeared: Bellesguard Villa, Park Güell, the restoration of Mallorca Cathedral, the church of the Colònia Güell, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, and the Nativity façade of the Sagrada Familia.

However, the splendour of Gaudí’s architecture coincided with a progressive withdrawal in personal matters. While he increasingly disengaged from social life his religious feelings deepened.

In 1914 he abandoned all other work to concentrate on the Sagrada Familia. Aware that he would not live to see it completed, he did his best to leave it at an advanced stage for coming generations. In fact, Gaudí was only to see one of its towers in its final form.

Gaudí died on the 10th of June 1926 after being knocked down by a tram while making his way, as he did every evening, to the Sagrada Família from the Church of Sant Felip Neri. After being struck he lost consciousness, and nobody suspected that this dishevelled old man who was not carrying any identity papers was the famous architect. He was taken to the Santa Cruz Hospital, where he was later recognised by the Priest of the Sagrada Família. He was buried two days later in that very church, following a funeral attended by throngs of people: most of the citizens of Barcelona came out to bid a final farewell to the most universal architect that the city had ever known.

 

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