A Digital Journal

Photography by Tony Triolo

La Pedrera – Gaudi’s Other Masterpiece

La Pedrera roof in Barcelona.

The whimsical rooftop of Gaudi’s La Pedrera

At the end of my last post (June), I mentioned that I would also try to post some photos of Antoni Gaudi’s second most recognizable structure in Barcelona – La Pedrera.  On our recent trip to Spain, and prior to our visit to Sagrada Familia, we decided to visit La Pedrera, a warm up for the main act.  Having only two days to spend in Barcelona, we actually squeezed in visits to both Gaudi masterpieces on the same day, something that I would not recommend.  In our case, it was unavoidable.  If you have the time, devote at least a full day to each building.

La Pedrera’s (sometimes called Casa Mila), undulating stone facade, wrought iron balconies and windows were quite controversial for its time.  Built between 1905 – 1910, but not completely finished until 1913, it was originally built for a wealthy widow whose husband made his fortune in the American colonies.  Gaudi was a devote Catholic, and looked on La Pedrera to be a spiritual symbol.  He incorporated religious elements and statuary into the design as a testament to his great faith.  La Pedrera was constructed to house apartments and offices, however, the owner had difficulty renting the apartments because prospective tenants thought they would have problems furnishing the rooms, as they were irregularly shaped.  There is not a right angle to be found in the structure.

Undulating facade of concrete and wrought iron

La Pedrera owes its name to its rough outer appearance, similar to an open quarry.  It was built as two apartment blocks with separate entrances, linked by two inner courtyards, one larger than the other.  The exterior’s wavy facade mirrors the flow of the interior.  Concrete hangs off  of a steel skeleton which is adorned with numerous wrought iron decorative elements highlighted by the free-formed balconies.  The floor plan is open and expansive, representational of apartments designed for the more affluent citizens of the day.  Considered one of Gaudi’s most ambitious works, it is one of the most famous buildings of the Catalan Art Nouveau period.

Chimneys stand as sentinels

The building marked a break in the style of Gaudi’s work with respect to the functional and ornamental aspects.  Designed late in his career, Gaudi was able to exercise a bit more creative license with his rather unorthodox structure.  His whimsical talents are most evident on the rooftop which is a virtual garden of farcical structures, but which all have an underlying functionality to them.  It is the place where most visitors gather and linger.  The roof’s surface rolls under your feet, only interrupted by organically shaped stairways and abutments.  The ventilation towers and chimneys form a storybook-like forest of imaginative shapes, crafted out of a variety of materials, predominantly mosaics and plaster.

Typical apartment kitchen of Gaudi's La Pedrera in Barcelona, Spain.

Apartment laundry

Kitchen stove

An architect, not unlike America’s own Frank Lloyd Wright, Gaudi looked on architecture as a total art.  He was involved with all aspects of the design, from the fundamental structural considerations, to the type of decorative molding to place around the doors.  Also, like Wright, Gaudi was interested in nature and organic forms and shapes, but did not discount the important technological innovations of the time.  Visitors can walk through an entirely renovated apartment, styled as it would have been during the early 1900’s for a typical well-heeled Catalan.  It is remarkably reserved in the style of modernism and does not display too many of the flights of fancy so common on the rooftop or even in the central courtyards or stairways.

Mosaic and plaster chimneys

Chimneys take on a distinctive helmet-like shape

The roof also affords a spectacular vantage point.  From it you can easily see Sagrada Familia off in the distance.  Scaffolding and construction cranes surround the structure as the city races to complete it by 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s death.  La Pedrera is located on Passeig de Gracia, directly along one of the main tourist bus routes.  Open almost every day of the year, but lines still form down the street due to the space limitations inside.  If you happen to be a senior citizen, be sure to make your presence known, as you will be escorted to the front of the line.  Who said age doesn’t have its rewards?

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Architecture, La Pedrera, Photography, Sagrada Familia, Spain | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment