Until 1905, on this corner there stood a modest three-storey building with a garden. After its demolition it was replaced by one of Gaudí’s most admired and photographed works: CASA MILÀ, (67) popularly known as LA PEDRERA. The last residential building by Gaudí, it was built between 1906 and 1912 for Pere Milà, a property developer married to Rosario Segimón, the widow of José Guardiola, a wealthy Indiano (as Catalans returning rich from the American colonies were called). Milà was a young and successful businessman who indulged in luxury, novelty and fashion, a true dandy of Modernista Bacelona. He was one of the first to boast a private motor car in the city’s avenues, and as he went by Barcelonans joked about his love of money and opulence, wondering if he wasn’t rather more interested in “the widow’s guardiola” (piggy bank), than in “Guardiola’s widow”. Gaudí did not conceive the Casa Milà as a simple residential building, but as a complete work that ventured from architecture into the realm of sculpture. The façade, influenced by the early international Art Nouveau movement, is clad in limestone blocks that were rough-hewn to achieve a matte finish, forming characteristic curved volumes and sinuous arabesques that recall a sea cliff with cave dwellings marked by evocatively shaped wrought iron balconies. The lower part of the façade is built with stone from the Garraf Massif and the upper part with stone from Vilafranca del Penedès, both south of Barcelona. Originally, Gaudí aimed to convert La Pedrera into a religious allegory of the Holy Rosary, culminating atop the façade with a four-metre-high bronze medallion. However, the Setmana Tràgica (Tragic Week, a social revolt sparked in 1909 by the mobilisation of the Catalan reservists to fight in Morocco, during which churches were attacked and burnt) persuaded Milà that a residential dwelling with a giant virgin on the terrace would undoubtedly become the next target for anti-clerical mobs. He therefore quietly cancelled this part of the scheme. Some claim that the interior layout of La Pedrera was taken from Gaudí’s studies of medieval fortresses. This image is reinforced by the chimneys and accesses to the roof terrace that look like sentinels with helmets. The interior, however, is nothing like a fortress. The paintings on the ceilings of the foyers and the inner courts are particularly interesting. From the foyers one can enter the old underground coach house, now converted into a sloping, semicircular auditorium with wrought iron and brick columns supporting the building (not included in the visit). Milà’s wife, Rosario Segimón, never shared her husband’s devotion to Gaudí but acquiesced to living in a Gaudinian space until 1926 when, after the architect’s death, she decided to redecorate the main floor in a Louis XVI style that was far more to her taste. After the removal of the dividing walls, this space is now used for the large exhibitions. On the top floor of the building is the attic, which now houses the Gaudí Space, and has been restored to the appearance that it had when it was designed by Gaudí. Built in brick, it originally housed the washrooms of the house. The ground plan is a wide figure of eight, and it has 270 parabolic arches that years later captured the imagination of Le Corbusier and -according to the mood of the visitor- can be seen as the ribs of an immense animal or as a palm tree. The recovery of this space involved the removal of 13 apartments built in 1953: although these apartments did have their architectural interest, they had hidden one of the secrets of this part of the house. When it was returned to its original state, it was found that Gaudí had given a logical order to the small windows distributed at different levels to allow light and a constant current of air into the attic, which was also designed for drying laundry. The Gaudí Space currently attempts to illustrate the personality of the architect through a series of drawings, models, photographs and audio-visual materials that explain his life, his historical and cultural context, and the artistic values and technical innovations of his work. From the Gaudí Space, there is access to the stepped roof terrace of la Pedrera, which the poet Pere Gimferrer called a “warriors’ garden”. The roof terrace has also undergone a radical restoration: only Gaudí’s original chimneys have been maintained, now returned to their splendour together with the stairwells, clad with fragments of marble and trencadís of Valencia tiles. The one chimney which is crowned with glass bottle fragments was restored with champagne bottle bottoms from the turn of the 20th century (according to hearsay Gaudí designed this by using the empties on the morning after the inauguration party). The work of the restorers has recovered the original force of the Ulldecona stone overhang decorated with fragments of floor tiles. Though the overall colour is cream, this area is more multi-coloured than the grey-white façade. The six exits from the stairwells punctuate this world-famous roof terrace. From here one can see a different perspective of the inner courts of the Casa Milà and, at the distance rising from the cityscape, the Sagrada Família. The last stage of the visit to La Pedrera is “El Pis de La Pedrera” a space that shows the key elements of Gaudí’s architecture and gives the visitors an idea of the lifestyle of a bourgeois family in Barcelona in the early 20th century. This space occupies two former dwellings of La Pedrera, covering almost 600 square metres, and provides a total reconstruction of the period, including the typical study room, the old bathrooms and the small servants’ quarters. Casa Milà was listed World Heritage by UNESCO in 1984. Curiously enough, in the early 1980s the appearance of the Casa Milà was deplorable. The façade was a dark brown colour, the frescoes in the foyer were seriously deteriorated, the main floor had been transformed into a bingo hall, and the shops on the ground floor did not respect the curves of the original openings. After the restoration, the gloomy building recovered all its splendour. At present, the building is the headquarters of the Caixa Catalunya Foundation. The savings bank Caixa Catalunya has since 1986 invested more than 48 million euros in its restoration, which has involved the repair of the serious mutilations that the building had undergone, the restoration of the original appearance of the attic and roof terrace, and the recovery of the original paint colours of the inner courts, which had suffered damage ranging from destruction during the Civil War to the slow but sure effects of pollution. The corridors linking the courts and the inner staircases have also been restored to the original apple green colour that Gaudí gave them. La Pedrera currently houses the Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera, where the foundation’s various departments can be found.
Open every day, check timetables at www.lapedrera.com
Closed: December 25, 2022
Prices and discounts
Adults: € 25.
Reduced (students +65 years old: € 19.
7 to 12 years of age: € 12,50.
0 to 6 years of age: free.
Groups of over 10 persons must reserve by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 932 142 576.
Discount of the Modernisme Route: €3% off the adult price.
ATTENTION: old vouchers that are valid and still have a 20% discount, will apply the current discount of 3 euros.
Tel.: 932 142 576.
Get the Guidebook of Barcelona Modernisme Route
The Barcelona Modernisme Route is an itinerary that takes you through the Barcelona of Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch, the architects who, together with others, made Barcelona the world capital of Modernisme. This Route enables you to get to know thoroughly impressive palatial residences, amazing houses, the temple that has become a symbol of the city and a huge hospital, but it also includes humbler and more everyday buildings and items such as chemists’, shops, lampposts and benches - modernist works which show that Art Nouveau put down strong roots in Barcelona and today Modernisme is still an art that is alive and part of life in the city.
The Guidebook of Barcelona Modernisme Route can be acquired in our centers of Modernisme.