Since we’ve come back from Barcelona, I have got a bit sidetracked, what with fireplaces that smoke and snow in March. But I still have a couple more posts to write, and one of them is Gaudi’s La Pedrera. I’ve already talked about the chimneys and the façade.
You may remember that La Pedrera was built between 1906 and 1912 by Pere Milà and Roser Segimon and is a six-storey apartment building of which they occupied the main floor. The building has two vestibules, both of which are big enough to allow vehicles to go down to the basement, amazing foresight when you consider the year of construction.
The Provença vestibule has a lift, a staircase going down to the basement and another going up to the first floor. It also houses the caretaker’s loggia. The ceilings and walls are decorated with paintings inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, especially the seven capital sins.
Today, the fourth floor apartment is the only one open to visitors. The home and life of a bourgois Barcelona family during the first third of the 20th century have been re-created, including all the original elements of a typical La Pedrera apartment, such as the door knobs, drawers, mouldings, doors and flooring.
Appropriate furniture, works of art, decorative elements, fabrics and household items of the time have been added to give visitors an idea of what it was like to live there.
As I mentioned in another post, Gaudi designed furniture as well, and a couple of pieces are exhibited, plus a video showing how to use them. He was into ergonomics way before his time!
The actual design of the apartment is open plan, with much larger volumes than usual. However, rooms such as the utility room and the maid’s room are surprisingly small.
The attic area, which was designed to house the water tanks and washing lines, consists of no fewer than two hundred and seventy catenary arches of different heights that hold up the roof. Today it’s used as an exhibition area for Gaudi’s life and work.
I hope you’re not sick of Gaudi yet because I still want to tell you about Guell Palace, Casa Batlló and Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, all three of which are on the Unesco World Heritage list. You’ve already seen the chimneys which I think are probably the most exciting part, but there are lots of other very interesting features as well. We visited the houses in the order in which they were built, as I thought it would be interesting to see the progression.
Personally, if I didn’t have time to see all the houses, I would give perference to Casa Batlló, then Guell Palace but I have friends who liked La Pedrera best. The entrance fees range from 12 euro per person including a very good audioguide for Guell Palace, 20.35 euro each with a good audioguide for Casa Batlló and 16.50 euro each with a terrible audioguide for La Pedrera.
I thought I’d start with a comparison of the façades and describes the interiors in a subsquent post. Guell palace was built between 1885 and 1890. When construction began, Eusebi Guell, a rich textile manufacturer with a solid background in economics, law, science and the humanities, was 39 and Gaudi was only 34 and keen to break with tradition, with the unmitigated support of Guell. You may remember that Gaudi took on the Sagrada Familia in 1883 at the age of 31.
The façade is quite austere compared with the other houses. It has unusal parabolic arches with intricate wrought-iron work in the middle topped by a Venetian style tribune with leadlight windows. The rest of the façade is made of stone.
Nothing could be more different than the façade of Casa Batlló. It is located on Passeig de Gracia, a favourite promenade with the local bourgeois families. The house was 20 years old when Josep Battló bought it in 1903. He thought it looked somewhat dull next to its neighbour, Amatller, so he decided to call in Gaudi who, at 52, was at the height of his popularity, having started work on Guell Park in 1900.
Gaudi kept the original structure and added two additional levels; the façade was a complete remake and is covered in the most wonderful mosaic work, along with other highly original details such as wavy walls, mask-shaped balconies, bone-like pillars, giving it the nickname of “Casa dels ossos” or the “House of Bones” and enlarged windows, for which it was dubbed “Casa Dels badall”s or the” House of Yawns”. The roof is shaped like the back of a dragon.
In 1905, Père Milà and Roser Segimon, a rich widow, decided to invest her fortune in a large piece of land further down the same street and commissioned Gaudi to build a six-storey apartment building of which they would occupy the 1,300 sq.m. main floor. There was a lot of friction between the architect and the promoters who didn’t appreciate having to pay out more and more money for bold decorative effects and construction principles that were strongly criticised by the press.
Its nickname of La Pedrera, which means “quarry” in Catalan, is due to its three cream-coloured stone façades which change colour as the light waxes and wanes. With their wavy lines, extravagant wrought-iron balconies and 150 windows, the overall effect is like billowing waves.
Guell Palace: open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm in summer (April 1st to October 31st), 10 am to 5.40 pm in winter (November 1st to March 31st). Free on the first Sunday of every month, April 23, May 18th and September 24th. There are limited free tickets so check the website. Closed Mondays, except holidays, 25th and 26th December, 1st January and 6th to 13th January.
Casa Battlo: open Monday to Sunday, 9 am to 9 pm, all year round.
La Pedrera: open Monday to Sunday, 9 am to 8 pm in Summer (1st March to 4th November), 9 am to 6.30 pm in winter (5th November to 28th February), 11 am to 6.30 pm on 1st January. Closed 25th December and 7th to 13th January.
Like so many others before us, we’ve become Gaudi fans and fascinated, amongst other things, by his chimneys. All of the houses designed by Gaudi that we visited included the roof with their marvellous chimneys. Gaudi believed that all things useful should also be aesthetically pleasing. Some of the chimneys are used to evacuate smoke while other are for ventilation. They are often highly colourful, and sometimes made with salvaged materials, including broken champagne bottles!
We visited the inside of Guell Palace, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila (also known as La Pedrera) and the Guell Pavilions from the outside only. Our home exchange host, Pep, who’s a musican, tells us that they hold concerts on top of La Pedrera. It must be a truly unique experience.