Gaudi - Professional work - 10 Casa Milà La Pedrera
Type of Spiritual Experience
This building is an exceptional example of building with symbols.
To understand why Gaudi chose white, 5 levels [9 in total], a mountain for a roof and attic and decoration on the roof that made it look like a party hat with tassels, you need to follow the links we have given you.
It is somewhat telling that he put the apartment of the owners on level 5 spiritually - the Earth level - just above the underworld and hell!
He also sited the apartments of all the tenants above the owners spiritually, giving some indication of how he viewed the owner and tenant relationship.
Even if you cannot be bothered to understand the symbolism, the positioning of the chakras on diagrams of meditating people may give you a clue.
He certainly had a sense of humour, as I don't suppose his difficult clients ever guessed.
It may be helpful to know that one key step on the spiritual path is that of purification - the need to clean the mind. And Gaudi played the joke of all jokes on the owner in this house by putting the laundry in the attic - the roof, symbolic of the mind. He clearly felt the owners needed a very severe clean out.
A description of the experience
Casa Milà is in Barcelona. It was the last private residence designed by Gaudí and was built between 1906 and 1912. Gaudí designed the house around two large, curved courtyards, with a structure of stone, brick and cast-iron columns and steel beams. There is not a single bearing wall in the whole of La Pedrera, making it both an innovative and fascinating structure.
The facade is built of limestone from Vilafranca del Penedès, apart from the upper level, which is covered in white tiles, evoking a snowy mountain range. It has a total of five floors, plus a loft made entirely of catenary arches, as well as two large interior courtyards, one circular and one oval. Notable features are the staircases to the roof, topped with the four-armed cross, and the chimneys, covered in ceramics and with shapes that suggest mediaeval helmets.
The building was commissioned by Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon. Roser Segimón was the wealthy widow of Josep Guardiola, who had made his fortune with a coffee plantation in Guatemala. Her second husband, Pere Milà was a developer known for his flamboyant lifestyle.
Señora Milà never liked the building that would become her home and, in fact, the inhabitants of the city gave it the derogatory nickname “Pedrera” (stonemason in English). This is because there were few people in those days, the exceptions being Salvador Dalí and Le Corbusier, who appreciated the architectural jewel that Antoni Gaudí presented to the Milàs.
The textile industrialist Pere Milà made Gaudí’s acquaintance after visiting Casa Batlló, where his father’s partner, Josep Batlló, lived. And maybe it was because of his desire to stand out and attract attention that he decided that he too would live in the Paseo de Gracia and in a building constructed by the architect in fashion at that time.
Of course the people of the time may have been more astute than this writer gives them credit for, as maybe they had realised he was a Mason in stone, which indeed he was. In 1940, Milà died and Segimon sold the property in 1946 for 18 million pesetas. Despite ‘never liking the building’, Roser Segimon continued to live on the main floor until her death in 1964.
In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In 2013 it became the headquarters of the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera which manages it and any exhibitions and other cultural and educative activities held there.
Milà and Segimón married in 1905 and Roser Segimón bought a house with garden which occupied an area of 1,835 square meters, located on Paseo de Gracia, 92. In September, they commissioned Gaudí to build them a new house with the idea of living on the main floor and renting out the rest of the apartments.
Unlike all his previous work, Gaudí decided to knock down the previous building and build anew. The plot was on the corner of Paseo de Gracia and calle Provença. The resulting design …
………did not follow any rules and it implied both a break with the aesthetics of the period and with the technical innovations of other architects. A real challenge. Some media of the time even compared it with a hangar for Zeppelins
On February 2, 1906, the project was presented to the Barcelona City Council and work began. The interior decoration was carried out by Josep Maria Jujol and the painters Iu Pascual, Xavier Nogués and Aleix Clapés. The building was completed in December 1910 and the owners moved in. On October 31, 1912, Gaudí issued the certificate stating that the work had been completed and the whole house was ready to be rented.
But the unconventional design caused controversy. Gaudí, had planned for the Casa Milà to be a spiritual symbol. The facade was to have been completed with a stone, metal and glass sculpture of Our lady of the Rosary accompanied by the archangels Michael and Gabriel, 4m in height. A sketch was made by the sculptor Carles Mani, but a wave of anti-catholicism was sweeping Spain and after the Semana Trágica, in 1909, an outbreak of anticlericalism in the city, Milà decided to forgo the religious statues.
So the Casa Milà was not built entirely to Gaudí's specifications.
Casa Milà also caused some administrative problems. In December 1907 the City Hall stopped work on the building because of a pillar which occupied part of the sidewalk, not respecting the alignment of facades. Again on August 17, 1908, more problems occurred when the building surpassed the predicted height and borders of its construction site by 4,000 square metres (43,000 sq ft). The Council called for a fine of 100,000 pesetas (approximately 25% of the cost of work) or for the demolition of the attic and roof. The dispute was resolved a year and a half later, December 28, 1909, when the Commission certified that it was a monumental building and thus not required to have a 'strict compliance' with the bylaws.
Overall the client architect relationship was not as one would have wanted either. It appears that neither Mila or Segimon were familiar with Gaudi’s work, especially his complete approach to the design inside and outside. Gaudí, as he had done in Casa Batlló, designed furniture specifically for the main floor. The architect assumed complete responsibility for exterior and interior, responsibility for the structure and the facade, as well as every detail of the decor, designing furniture and accessories such as lamps, planters, floors or ceilings.
As usual there were no straight walls, but this became a point of friction with Segimon, who complained that ‘there was no straight wall to place her Steinway piano’. Gaudí's response was blunt: "So play the violin." But the result of these disagreements has been the loss of the decorative legacy of Gaudí. After Gaudí's death in 1926, Segimon got rid of most of the furniture that Gaudí had designed and covered over parts of Gaudí's designs with new decorations in the style of Louis XVI. But some of this furniture has not been lost. Some remain in private collections, including a curtain made of oak 4 m. long by 1.96 m. high in the Museum of Catalan Modernism; and a chair and desktop of Milà.
La Pedrera was acquired in 1986 by Caixa Catalunya [ca; es] and when restoration was done four years later, some of the original decorations also re-emerged.
But Gaudi in his turn did think about the commission he had been given and made a number of very inventive design decisions to accommodate Mila and Segimon. Casa Milà is characterized by its self-supporting stone facade, meaning that it is free of load-bearing walls. The facade connects to the internal structure of each floor by means of curved iron beams surrounding the perimeter of each floor. This construction system allows, on one hand, large openings in the facade which give light to the homes, and on the other, free structuring of the different levels, so that internal walls can be added and demolished without affecting the stability of the building. This allows the owners to change their minds at will and to modify, without problems, the interior layout of their homes.
But it appears that Mila and Segimon were more interested in the money making potential of having Gaudi’s name attached to rental property rather than valuing and enjoying the work he did, so when Gaudí carved oak doors similar to those he had designed for the Casa y Bardes, they were only included on two floors, as when Segimon discovered the price, she decided there would be no more at that quality.
Gaudí's relations with Segimon deteriorated during both the construction and decoration of the house. Gaudí had planned a monumental statue in bronze of the virgin del Rosario on the front of the building in homage to the name of the owner, that the artist Carles Mani i Roig was to sculpt. The statue was not made. Continuing disagreements led Gaudí to take Milà to court over his fees. The lawsuit was won by Gaudí in 1916, but he gave the 105,000 pesetas he won in the case to charity, stating that "the principles mattered more than money."
After Milà’s death, and the sale of the building by Segimon in 1946 to Josep Ballvé i Pellisé, in partnership with the family of Pío Rubert Laporta, the Compañía Inmobiliaria Provenza, SA (CIPSA) was founded to administer the building.
The new owners divided the first floor facing Carrer de Provença into five apartments instead of the original two and in 1953, they commissioned Francisco Juan Barba Corsini to convert 13 attic laundry rooms to street-facing apartments. The insurance company Northern took over the main floor in 1966. By then, Casa Milà had housed a bingo hall, an academy and the offices of Cementos Molins and Inoxcrom among others. The owners allowed the building to become dilapidated, causing stones to loosen in 1971. Casa Milà was in poor condition by the early 1980s. It had been painted a dreary brown and many of its interior colour schemes had been abandoned or allowed to deteriorate.
Despite this, in 1984 the building became part of a World Heritage Site encompassing some of Gaudí's works. In 1986, Caixa Catalunya bought La Pedrera and in 1987, urgently needed work began on the restoration and cleaning of the façade. The renovated main floor opened in 1990 and became an exhibition room.
Plot - The building is 1,323 m2 per floor on a plot of 1,620 m2.
Façade - Casa Milà’s facade is composed of large blocks of limestone from the Garraf Massif on the first floor and from the Villefranche quarry for the higher levels. Gaudi designed the house as a constant curve, both outside and inside, incorporating ruled geometry and naturalistic elements. Viewed from the outside the building has three parts:
- the main body of the six-storey blocks with undulating stone floors,
- two floors set a block back with a different curve, similar to waves, a smoother texture and whiter colour, and with small holes that look like embrasures, and
- finally the body of the roof.
The building you see now has lost its lower-level ironwork. In 1928, the tailor Mosella opened a store in La Pedrera, and eliminated the bars. This ironwork made its way to America, and it is now on display in the MoMa.
Inner courtyards - Casa Milà consists of two buildings, which are structured around two courtyards that provide light. The resulting layout is shaped like an asymmetrical "8" because of the different shapes and sizes of the courtyards. The building thus uses a completely original solution to solve the issue of a lobby being too closed and dark. Its open and airy courtyards provide a place of transit and are directly visible to those accessing the building. The two halls are fully polychrome with oil paintings on the plaster surfaces, with eclectic references to mythology and flowers.
The storeys - There are nine storeys which are:
- basement - The basement was intended to be the garage
- ground floor,
- main (or noble) floor - the main floor was intended to be the residence of the Milàs (a flat of all 1,323 m2), the plan was for the other floors to have over 20 apartments.
- four upper floors - The apartments feature plastered ceilings with dynamic reliefs, handcrafted wooden doors, windows, and furniture, as well as hydraulic tiles and various ornamental elements and
- an attic - The attic housed the laundry and drying areas, forming an insulating space for the building and simultaneously determining the levels of the roof.
The stairways were intended as service entries, with the main access to the apartments by elevator except for the noble floor, where Gaudí added a prominent interior staircase. Gaudí wanted the people who lived in the flats to all know each other. Therefore, there were only elevators on every other floor, so people on different floors would meet one another.
Main gate - Access to the lower floors is protected by a massive iron gate with a design attributed to Jujol. It was originally used by both people and cars, as access to the garage is in the basement, now an auditorium. Felix Anthony Meadows, owner of Industrial Linera, requested that a change be made to the design, because his Rolls Royce could not access the garage. Gaudí agreed to remove a pillar on the ramp that led into the garage so that Felix, who was establishing another factory, could go to both places with his car from La Pedrera.
Patios - There are two patios on the side of the Passeig de Gracia and of the street Provence. The patios are structurally key as they support the loads of the interior facades. The floor of the courtyard is supported by pillars of cast iron. In the courtyard, there are traditional elliptical beams and girders but Gaudí applied an ingenious solution, using two concentric cylindrical beams with stretched radial beams, like the spokes of a bicycle. They form a point outside of the beam to two points above and below, making the function of the central girder a keystone and working in tension and compression simultaneously. This supported structure is twelve feet in diameter and is considered "the soul of the building" with a clear resemblance to Gothic crypts. The centerpiece was built in a shipyard by Josep Maria Carandell who copied a steering wheel, interpreting Gaudí's intent as to represent the helm of the ship of life.
Floors - For the floors of Casa Milà, Gaudí used square timbers with two colours, and for the pavement hexagonal pieces in blue with sea motifs that he had originally designed for the Batllo house. The waxing was in grey and by John Bertrand under the supervision of Gaudí who "touched up with their own fingers," in the words of the manufacturer Josep Bay.
Loft - Gaudí used catenary arches as a support structure for the roof, a form which he had already used shortly after graduating, in the wood frameworks of Mataró's cooperative known as "L'Obrera Mataronense." In this case, Gaudí used the Catalan technique of timbrel, imported from Italy in the fourteenth century.
The attic, where the laundry rooms were located, was a clear room under a Catalan vault roof supported by 270 parabolic vaults of different heights and spaced by about 80 cm. The roof resembles both the ribs of a huge animal and a palm, giving the roof-deck a very unconventional shape similar to a landscape of hills and valleys. The shape and location of the courtyards makes the arches higher when the space is narrowed and lower when the space expands.
Roof - 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.
There are six skylights/staircase exits (four of which were covered with broken pottery and some that ended in a double cross typical of Gaudí), twenty-eight chimneys in several groupings, two half-hidden vents whose function is to renew the air in the building, and four domes that discharged to the facade. The staircases also house the water tanks; some of which are snail-shaped.
The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia can be seen through one of its arches, yet more proof of the architect’s obsession with the church.
The stepped roof of La Pedrera, called "the garden of warriors" by the poet Pere Gimferrer because the chimneys appear to be protecting the skylights, has undergone a radical restoration, removing chimneys added in interventions after Gaudí, television antennas, and other elements that degraded the space. The restoration brought back the splendour to the chimneys and the decoration of the skylights - covered with fragments of marble and broken Valencia tiles – is now evident in all its colourful glory. One of the chimneys was topped with glass pieces – it was said that Gaudí did that the day after the inauguration of the building, taking advantage of the empty bottles from the party. It was restored with the bases of champagne bottles from the early twentieth century.
The repair work has also allowed the restorers to recapture the original impact of the overhangs made of stone from Ulldecona with fragments of tiles. This whole set is more colourful than the facade, although here the creamy tones are dominant.
Method of construction
The builder Bayó explained its construction: "First the face of a wide wall was filled with mortar and plastered. Then Canaleta indicated the opening of each arch and Bayó put a nail at each starting point of the arch at the top of the wall. From these nails was dangled a chain so that the lowest point coincided with the deflection of the arch. Then the profile displayed on the wall by the chain was drawn and on this profile the carpenter marked and placed the corresponding centering, and the timbrel vault was started with three rows of plane bricks. Gaudí wanted to add a longitudinal axis of bricks connecting all vaults at their keystones".
The source of the experienceGaudí, Antoni
Concepts, symbols and science items
Party hat with tassle
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeauty, art and music
Being left handed
Believing in the spiritual world
Communing with nature