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Casa Mila - La Pedrera

Casa Mila (Mila House) also known as La Pedrera (the quarry), is an apartment building situated at Passeig de Gràcia No. 92 (at the intersection with Carrer de Provença) in Barcelona was built between 1906 and 1910 for the Mila family The last example of Gaudi's civil architecture, it is one of his finest and most ambitious creations, extraordinarily innovative in its functional, constructive, and ornamental aspects.

The spacious apartments are arranged along the undulating facade and around two large interior patios, once circular and the other of elliptical shape. From these patios a spiral staircase connects with the first floors while a ramp leads to the underground carriage area. This plan completely broke away from the type of houses in the Eixample district of Barcelona and used a new and audacious building structure supported on columns of stone and brick and incorporating a steel web without load-bearing walls. This gave a total freedom to the distribution of each of the five floors where broken undulating planes dominated, always forming curvilinear perspectives.

The facade is an impressive wave-like mass of rough-chipped stone. Gaudi envisioned the facade as a petrified wave and the hardness and solidity of the materials contrast with the sensation of movement in these waves on one vast sea of stone. The undulating roll of the balconies, the tidal markings on the plaster ceilings, and the hexagonal starfish ceramic tiles which now cover the sidewalk pavement all indicate Gaudi's preoccupation with the ocean. The windows and doors seem to be dug out of this stone mass and are trimmed in exquisitely crafted wrought iron work with vegetal forms on the balconies and refined grilles on the doors. The unique roof is formed of lofts over the frame of a series of parabolic arches of varying height with a marble mansard broken only by small windows. On the stepped terrace, coming as an elegant surprise are the huge stair exits of sculptured spirals crowned by four repeated crosses and faced with trencadís (broken pieces of ceramic). the chimneys recall knights wearing visors. All of the makes up a fantastic space which has been called expressionist or an anticipation of Surrealism.

Classified as World Heritage in 1984 by UNESCO, La Pedrera was purchased by the Caixa de Catalunya, a savings bank, which has restored it as the head office of its cultural foundation. The building now hosts a variety of exhibitions, cultural events, and has opened up the building to tourists. The Caixa Catalunya Foundation has a nice web site with a more detailed history and photographs of La Pedrera.  The facade was also recently cleaned.

Text kindly provided by Jonathan D. Meltzer from his excellent Gaudi Central website.

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