Casa Mila or ‘La Pedrera’ is one of the most iconic works by Antonio Gaudi. It was a private residence designed for the couple, Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon. The structure stands out in Barcelona’s Passeig de Gracia due to various reasons such as its unique façade, the associated history, and as a splendid architectural marvel.
Casa Mila is also named as La Pedrera because the design resembles a stone quarry. Antonio Gaudi, true to his style, was inspired by nature to provide the structural solutions and ornamental details of the building. Even though Casa Mila is a well-known structure, here are a few things that contribute to the rich story of Casa Mila.
1. The vision of the modern age.
Casa Mila became one of the first buildings of that period in Barcelona to have certain infrastructural features.
The features included an elevator connecting the floors, provision of running water to all the apartments within it, and the existence of a basement garage. The proposed elevator could not be installed. Antonio Gaudi was working on the project, but his design ensured that the option could be easily added. The garage is said to have been designed to house both cars and horse carriages. The garage has now been converted into an auditorium.
These features were very uncommon during the time. Antonio Gaudi was a visionary and foresaw the forthcoming of a more modern lifestyle.
2. Chimneys and Warriors
The chimneys are a striking feature of Casa Mila. They are either free-standing or grouped on the roof of the structure. The structure seamlessly combines aestheticism and functionality. They can be seen to sync with the organic form that is prominent throughout the façade. At the same time, they also rotate about an axis following the smoke emission through them.
The resemblance of the chimneys to soldiers is often noted. The similarity inspired sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs while creating the soldiers on Sagrada Familia’s Passion Façade. Subirachs’ soldiers lack the organic quality of Gaudi’s chimneys, yet the connection can be seen.
3. Catholicism inspired symbols
Antonio Gaudi was a religious man. It has been stated time and again. It was not surprising that he decided to augment his work with a few Catholic symbols. The statues and figures of biblical characters were to be placed throughout the building. Due to changes in certain social and political outlooks that grew in the society at the time, some of these statues were not installed.
However, Gaudi added these symbols in his masterpiece. They weren’t hidden but they were subtle nevertheless. One can see these references on the chimneys on closer inspection. Similar religious references can be seen on other parts of the building such as the wrought iron railings, ceilings, and stairwells
4. The mysterious
As mentioned before, Antonio Gaudi didn’t shy away from adding religious symbols and references in his work. In Casa Mila’s façade, there are some prayers and symbols engraved. The religious symbols he used in Casa Mila were not as prominent as in his other works. Gaudi sought to convey his beliefs by including a hint to the Hail Mary prayer on the upper part of the façade facing Provença street. Various interpretations have been given to these references. One of the most popular interpretations is the one given to the ‘M’ engraved over a rose in one of the elevations. The ‘M’ has been said to stand for Virgin Mary by some, judging by the religious inclinations of Gaudi. While some others attribute the M to Mrs. Mila.
5. Mythology on the walls
The exterior of Casa Mila is mostly monochromatic. The vestibule of the building is seen to be vibrant with impressionist murals. This completely contrasts the exterior and comes as a welcome surprise to the visitor. The brightly colored murals depict scenes and characters from different mythologies. The most noted ones include the seven sins, scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, God Pan, and so on.
Some critics have noted that these mythologic murals don’t agree with the fairly modern outlook that the building was supposed to represent. Despite the criticism, these murals have become an important part of Casa Mila.
6. Handling the details
Antonio Gaudi had an eye for details. It is evident in his work that he gives utmost importance to the tiniest of details. Even the handles and doorknobs of Casa Mila is a work of art. Antonio Gaudi gave special attention while designing these details. Such details are often overlooked while designing a building. He made them aesthetically pleasing. He also made sure that they are ergonomically designed. Each one of these handles was made adhering to particular purposes and the design was carefully crafted. Casa Mila showcases an audio-visual show for its visitors, explaining about these handles, their design, and their use.
7. Gaudi’s messages
Antonio Gaudi loved nature and symbolism. He conveyed various messages through his architectural works. He not only used biblical and catholic references, he also used symbols to convey messages from him to the viewer. The messages Gaudi left in his designs have been studied and interpreted time and again. Similarly, Casa Mila is also a forebear of what Gaudi wanted to express.
One of the messages is seen in one of the chimneys on the roof. A heart is engraved on it facing the direction of Gaudi’s hometown. It has been interpreted that this heart represented that Gaudi respected his roots and loved it.
Another such message is the engraving of a bleeding heart or a heart with a tear. This engraving is facing the Sagrada Familia. It is believed that this engraving expressed his misery over his unfinished work.
8. Façade and its materials
Different debates have taken place regarding the inspiration for Casa Mila’s façade. It has been established that Gaudi loves to imitate nature. Casa Mila’s façade is said to be a direct representation of an existing natural feature. The source of his inspiration though is still being debated. The most prominent explanation is that the organic façade is a replication of Montserrat and the landscapes of Cappadocia. Some have also seen resemblances to the wavy pattern in the artwork by Katsushika Hokusai
The very name ‘La Pedrera’ resulted from its resemblance to a stone quarry. Considering this, it is interesting to note that the materials for this edifice have been quarried from a limestone quarry nearby. The quarry is located in Garraf Natural Park.
9. Controversies and controversial illustrations
Antonio Gaudi and the Mila couple had a few disagreements. These eventually lead to some legal hassles including the Barcelona Tribunal court. During this time the building caught the eye of the public and several illustrations and pamphlets were designed to ridicule it.
10. Casa Mila and Dan Brown’s Origin
Author Dan Brown and his popular character Robert Langdon need no description. In one of his latest works, Origin, Casa Mila is featured. Casa Mila is one of the most important settings in the story. The book was a bestseller and Casa Mila was also the location chosen to host its international launch.