As the UNESCO comments:
Seven properties built by the architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in or near Barcelona testify to Gaudí’s exceptional creative contribution to the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These monuments represent an eclectic, as well as a very personal, style which was given free reign in the design of gardens, sculpture and all decorative arts, as well as architecture.
His work is rooted in the particular character of the period, drawing on the one hand from traditional Catalan patriotic sources and on the other from the technical and scientific progress of modern industry. Gaudí’s work is a remarkable reflection of all these different facets of society and has a unique and singular character. In fact, his works are particularly associated with Modernisme, and in this sense, Gaudí can be regarded as the most representative and outstanding of the Modernista architects.
Gaudí’s work is an exceptional creative synthesis of several 19th-century artistic schools, such as the Arts and Crafts movement, Symbolism, Expressionism, and Rationalism, and is directly associated with the cultural apogee of Catalonia. Gaudí also presaged and influenced many forms and techniques of 20th-century Modernism.
(Below is the general introduction of a series of 6 posts about the 7 works by Antoni Gaudí protected by the UNESCO in and around Barcelona. If you have already read my first post “Works of Antoni Gaudí (1/7) – La Sagrada Familia” please skip the introduction part and jump below the horizontal line.)
In total there are 7 properties designed by Antoni Gaudí which are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. They are, Gaudí’s work on the Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, Casa Batlló and Crypt in Colonia Güell.
Luckily, many thanks to the developed tourism industry of Barcelona, I was able to visit almost all the properties except Casa Vicens, which was still under reconstruction. It was a pity that I could only take a look at the exterior of the building but later on I read more about the interior on books. Hopefully when you visit Barcelona, the door of Casa Vicens will be open to you already.
In order to provide an insight into how to explore the works of Gaudí in a more organized manner, I’d like to write about these 7 properties in 6 not-too-long posts, namely “la Sagrada Familia”, “Casa Mila”, “Casa Batlló”, “Park Güell”, “Palau Güell”, “Crypt in Colonia Güell and Casa Vicens”, just in case if you only want to visit some of the 7 buildings, you don’t need to scroll down a super-long post to find out where to go or what to see.
My general structure of introducing these properties would be first of all, some practical information based on my own experience such as opening hours and buying tickets. Secondly, I’ll focus on what I’ve learnt from my visit (audio guide or books) and I’ll try offering some highlights combined with pictures. I believe in this way, it’s easier to understand the cultural and historical value of Gaudí’s works and his influence. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or contact the Tourism Office of Barcelona directly, I assure you they will handle your questions or requests efficiently. Now, let’s start our journey of exploring the masterpieces of God’s architect, Antoni Gaudí.
1. Practical information
1.1 Opening hours
1.1.1 La Pedrera by day
- 3rd March – 5th November: Monday – Sunday, 9:00 – 20:30 (last admission: 20:00)
- 6th November – 24th December: Monday – Sunday, 9:00 – 18:30 (last admission: 18:00)
- 26th December – 3rd January: Monday – Sunday, 9:00 – 20:30 (last admission: 20:00)
- 4th – 8th January: Monday – Sunday, 9:00 – 18:30 (last admission: 18:00)
- 9th – 15th January: Closed for maintenance
- 16th January – 2nd March: Monday – Sunday, 9:00 – 18:30 (last admission: 18:00)
1.1.2 La Pedrera by night (Gaudí’s Pedrera: The Origins)
- 3rd March – 5th November: Monday to Sunday, 21:00 – 22:00 (from the beginning of March till the end of April) and 21:00 – 23:00 (from the beginning of May to the beginning of November)
- 6th November – 24th December: Monday to Sunday, 19:00 – 21:00
- 26th December – 3rd January: Monday to Sunday, 21:00 – 23:00
- 4th January – 2nd March: Monday – Sunday, 19:00 – 21:00
Do keep in mind that it is closed on the 25th December and from 9th to 15th January.
1.2 Various ticket types and prices
According to my own experience, you can either book your ticket online and print it out at home or download it on your mobile, or simply buy it on site. However, what you need to note is that on site you can only buy the ticket to enter immediately instead of reserving tickets for a later time slot. If you wanna reserve a ticket for tomorrow or even later you’ll have to do it online. The maximum waiting time for me was around 30 minutes so I guess it’s not like La Sagrada Familia or Park Güell, where you will need to wait for hours or even miss the opportunity to visit them. Maybe it’s just because I was lucky so if you can, buying tickets still appears to be a safer option.
1.2.1 La Pedrera by day
- Adult: €22
- Student: €16,50
- Disabled: €16,50
- Over 65: €16,50
- Children (six and under): free
- Children (seven to twelve): €11
1.2.2 La Pedrera by day Premium
- Adult: €29
- Children (six and under): free
- Children (seven to twelve): €11
If you purchase the La Pedrera by day Premium ticket, you will be able to enter this building from the main entrance on Passeig de Gràcia, on whatever day you want, at whatever time you like (within the opening hours of the building by day). Also, besides the audioguide, you will receive a unique visual guide of La Pedrera.
The audioguide is included in the price whether you buy the La Pedrera by day ticket or the La Pedrera by day Premium ticket. It is available in the following languages: Catalan, Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
1.2.3 La Pedrera by night (Gaudí’s Pedrera: The Origins)
- Adult: €34
- Children (six and under): free
- Children (seven to twelve) €17
“Gaudí’s Pedrera: The Origins” is a guided night tour with a spectacular final show: multiple projections at the roof terrace with special lighting and music.
1.2.4 La Pedrera day and night
- Adult: €41
- Children (seven to twelve) €20,50
If you are traveling in a group, it is said on the website that groups of more than ten people must contact the service to book a time for the visit. The tour is offered in different languages: Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Russian and Japanese. Now, if you book in advance, it’s also possible to book a tour in Chinese（现在也有中文导游咯！不过记得要提前预定哦）. For more information about visiting in groups, please click here.
1.3 How to get here
Address: CASA MILÀ “LA PEDRERA”. Passeig de Gràcia, 92. 08008, Barcelona.
- Bus: 7,16,17, 22, 24 and V17.
- Metro: lines 3 and 5 to station Diagonal.
If you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or click here to contact the official website of La Pedrera.
2. Explore Casa Milà (La Pedrera) – the zenith of Gaudí’s work
In 1900, being the designer of Casa Calvet, Gaudí won the “best-building” prize from the city council and 5 years later, refurbishment of Casa Batlló helped him win more admiration from the experts because of his boldness and creativity. Fortunately, one of the admirers was Pere Milà, whose father was one of Battló’s business partners. It is this newly-married rich couple who commissioned Gaudí to design their new home at the corner of Passeig de Gràcia and Carrer de Provença.
The locals call it “La Pedrera”, which means the stone quarry in Catalan. Once you see its façade I believe you will understand why. As I’ve mentioned above, Casa Milà was originally designed as a residential block and nowadays it is purchased by the Caixa Catalunya financial entity, who after restoring it, turned part of it into a culture center.
By designing Casa Milà, Gaudí is famous for turning nature into architecture. In order to have a basic understanding of this, you don’t even need to enter the building. If you stand right in front of it, you will see the undulating façade which looks like stone waves. If you stare at the stones for some time, it seems they are even moving and alive.
When you are standing under the building, do take a close look at the audacious tangle of wrought iron in the balconies. Although most of the railings of the balconies are in abstract forms, some are indeed figurative. For example, you can see masks and birds. These rails were created by Jujol based on the first one, designed and even cast by Gaudí himself , as a model. Also, once you are about to enter or you are already in the courtyards, pay attention to the spider-web like cast iron doors. With their winding movements, Gaudí gave lightness to this heavy metal. I guess now you’ve gained basic knowledge of Gaudí’s naturalistic forms, but trust me, you will discover much more once you enter this building and start exploring Gaudí’s unique technical and artistic paths.
This whole building is composed of 6 floors plus a basement, a mezzanine, an attic and a roof terrace. The basement was a garage for cars (the first underground garage in the city) and the ground floor was for commercial establishments. The mezzanine was for offices and the first floor was the owners’ home. The other four floors were for sale or rent at that time and the attic was for laundry. Based on what I visited (not the whole building is accessible to the general public because there are still private apartments in it), I will focus on explaining or describing the courtyards, the roof terrace, the attic (now called “Espai Gaudí“, a permanent exhibition of Gaudí’s research and secrets) and the Pedrera apartment.
The route is very well oriented and an audioguide is strongly recommended. The designed route is to visit the first courtyard -> take a lift to the roof terrace -> walk down to the attic (“Espai Gaudí”) -> walk down to the apartment -> walk down to the other courtyard -> exit. In the following paragraphs, I’ll also introduce to you this building in the same sequence (but I’ll combine the two courtyards together) and I hope you can have an idea of what to expect in La Pedrera. If you are confused by the plan of each floor, you can see floor plan upon entering the courtyards, the roof terrace, the attic and the apartment.
2.1 The courtyards
One of Gaudí’s innovations in Casa Milà is the design of two courtyards that form the basis of the whole floor plan and maximize the building’s natural lighting and ventilation. The two courtyards especially enable the natural light to go into the inner ares of the building, which are a bit far from the outside façades. As I mentioned before, the structure of this building is similar to the other buildings of the same function. That is to say, the first floor is the place where the developer lives and the upper floors are for rent or sale.
The first floor is where the Milà family lived and it covers a total space of 1300 square meters, which is the size of 10 big apartments in the neighborhood. On the first floor, there are 35 rooms, including living room, bathroom, kitchen, servants’ quarters and so on and this is the only floor which is accessible from the lobbies by two flights of steps. You can already imagine the fortune Milà family possessed at that time. What’s worth noticing here are the staircases leading to the first floor, which are decorated with sculptures, paintings, cast iron rails. Their shapes and colors represent what inspired the architect, a tropical forest. Take a close look at the ceiling of the staircase as shown in the pictures above, the coloring of the mural painting together with the light penetrating from the courtyard makes it look and feel like an underwater cave.
As you can see from the pictures above, anther innovation of Gaudí in this building is the ideal combination of resistance and lightness, a revolutionary structure of pillars and cast-iron girders making it possible that load-bearing walls can be dispensed with. To be more precise, the structure of La Pedrera is supported by columns, freeing the façades from the load, making them self-supporting and separate from the building. This open plan was adopted by rationalists two decades later, allowing the occupants to tailor the interior layout of their own flats.
Once you are on the ground floor, you will be able to see a double-lobby, one at the corner and one from the entrance of Carrer de Provença. This spacious lobby was specially designed by Gaudí for cars to circulate more easily.
In these two courtyards, light was so important that Gaudí decided to give up the plan of building the staircase leading to upper floors. Instead he chose to have two lifts fitted in. In this way, there won’t be staircase blocking the light. Also, it is said that Gaudí designed the lifts intending to enhance the communication among the neighbors living in the same building. Once you finish you visit, you will notice and experience 3 stairwells connecting service areas on each floor, designed in less visible areas.
2.2 The roof terrace
Once you enter the roof terrace after taking the lift, you will you are in a totally different world. Who are these knights templars crowned with helmets? Even at the present time, we are amazed by these sculptures. Can you imagine how people reacted more than a decade ago? Following the undulating waves of the main façade, these sculptures are not only artistic but also practical. They function as skylights, stairwells, ventilation towers and most importantly, chimneys. some of the creation were finished with the trencadís technique: mosaics using broken tiles, stones, marble and glass. Some of them are especially notable for being decorated with broken glasses of champagne bottles. As Gaudí himself said, the surrounding roof terraces are solely designed for practical purposes, useful but not beautiful. Nowadays, I believe it remains the same. Once you are on the top, see for yourself whether you can find any other roof terraces as special and beautiful as the one you are standing on.
Where did these “strange” ideas come from? What do these sculptures really mean? I felt I was in the setting of a science fiction movie when I arrived at the top. If you take a walk on the roof terrace, it won’t be difficult to discover two viewing arches, through one of which you will see La Sagrada Familia and through the other one of which you will see the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the summit of Mount Tibidabo. All theses details show that Gaudí’s design is indeed a masterpiece. Of course, there is no official explanation of what each symbol means. The symbolism here is still open to interpretation. By the way, among the silent warriors, can you find the heart of Jesus?
2.3 The attic (Espai Gaudí)
This attic space is pure architecture, housing the heating and cooling systems to protect the building from extreme temperature conditions in summer and winter. Like in Casa Batlló, this is also the place where the laundry was washed and dried. This open space, consisting of 270 catenary arches made entirely of bricks, resembles the ribcage of a whale. As Gaudí said by himself, if a building is like a man, then the roof is like an umbrella and the attic is like his hat. This is why even an attic was given special and careful attention to by Gaudí in his design.
Nowadays, the attic houses the permanent exhibition of the life and works of Gaudí. In here you will have the opportunity to explore and discover the research and secrets of his creations. Following the audioguide, you can learn much more than just about Casa Milà. For example, you will see the designs and plans of the crypt of the Church of the Güell Colony, of Park Güell, of Sagrada Familia and so on as well as the designs of furnitures or floors in Casa Batlló, Casa Calvet etc.
Anyway, if you are fascinated by the genius of Gaudí, this is the best place in Casa Milà to learn about his ideas and creativity. I have to say that without these models, it’s rather difficult to understand how he came up with these ideas or how these ideas went to him.
2.4 The Pedrera apartment
Located on the forth floor, once you walk down on the stairwell from the attic, you will come to this apartment where a middle-class family lived at the beginning of the 20th century. From here you can not only have a glance of the interior of the building but also take a look at the furniture and domestic equipments at that time. What’s more exciting is that you have the opportunity to see the ornamental elements designed by gaudí such as the handle, knobs, mouldings, doors floors etc.. Together with the audioguide, you will gain an understanding of the rapid transformation and modernization of the city of Barcelona in the first 25 years of the 20th century.
It is here that you will see the corridor, children’s living room, servants’ sewing room, the kitchen, servants’ dining room (connected to the kitchen), the bathrooms, the study, the living room connected to the drawing room etc.. Do pay attention to the details such as the plaster moulding, carpentry and ironwork. You will see Gaudí’s genius at every corner in this apartment.
Whether a futuristic garage for zeppelins, an urban Gruyère or an object from outer space, Casa Milà, is indeed the creation of an architect on earth, Antoni Gaudí. Led by him, the decorative program and countless ornamental details were carried out by numerous painters, sculptors, plasters, ceramicists, cabinetmakers, metalworkers and glassworkers. The shapes of ivy leaves, conches, ocean waves, palm trees reflected on the banisters, balconies, doors, handles, peepholes are all drawn from nature. Hasn’t he always been the mentor to Gaudí?
This post is one of my 6 posts concerning the 7 Works of Antoni Gaudí protected by the UNESCO. If you are interested, please click on the following properties to read more about them.
- Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia
- Casa Mila
- Casa Batlló
- Park Güell
- Palau Güell
- Crypt in Colonia Güell and Casa Vicens