Casa Milà was commissioned by the extravagant businessman and socialite Pere Milà and his wealthy wife Roser Segimon. It is also known as ‘La Pedrera’ - an ironic reference to its undulating façade’s likeness to a stone quarry.
Construction was carried out between 1906 and 1910, and was architecturally groundbreaking. The building lacks load-bearing walls, being supported instead by a system of columns, girders and vaults, and features unusual twisting wrought iron balconies on its self-supporting façade. Due to its architectural and artistic significance Casa Milà was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
A tragic week
Casa Milà was intended as a showy urban residence, with extra apartments for rent. Gaudí, a devout Catholic, also included heavy Christian symbolism in his design. He had an excerpt from the Rosary placed on a cornice of the building and planned to add a religious statue of Our Lady of the Rosary and the two archangels, Michael and Gabriel. After the Semana Tragica of 1909, which saw a week of violent anticlericalism, Milà decided that these statues should not be included - perhaps fearing that such religious imagery could lead to the house being attacked as a convent or church. This left Gaudí on the verge of quitting the whole project, but he was persuaded to continue work by a priest.
Even on completion, the building was not without controversy. Many local homeowners became angry with Milà and stopped greeting him in the street, arguing that his odd construction would lower the land values in the area. Roser Segimon also reportedly complained that there were no straight walls against which to place her Steinway piano - Gaudí responded that she should take up the violin instead.
Twists and turns
After Gaudí's death in 1926, Roser Segimon got rid of most of the furniture that he had designed for the house and covered over elements of his designs with new Louis XVI style decorations. She sold off the building six years after the death of her husband in 1940, and it eventually fell into disrepair. A vigorous project of restoration was carried out in the late 1980s, during which some of Gaudí’s hidden original designs were uncovered, and the building was reopened to the public in 1990.
The house is formed of two buildings joined around a pair of courtyards, allowing light into all nine floors; unusually, the building’s exterior shape is reflected in its interior. The spirals and angular shapes of the chimneys, fans and skylights on the roof, while they are decorative, all also serve important architectural purposes. The interior décor features painted walls with colourful mythological scenes and sea motifs on the floors, and the attic has a stunning Catalan vault ceiling.
Casa Milà is one of the crowning achievements of Gaudi’s Modernist project. A wonderfully realised vision of his Naturalist and geometrical interests, his hand is in every detail, from the structure and façade to its furniture and accessories, resulting in a remarkably liveable work of art.