Today marks revered Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí’s 161st birthday.
As a wee snail of thirteen, I had the privilege of traveling through Spain. Barcelona was my favorite city of the trip, and I think that was partly thanks to the spacious, whimsical aesthetic of Antoni Gaudí. Or maybe I should attribute it to the culture of the city that embraced such an imaginative architect. I brought home this postcard:
After marrying a wealthy older widow, in 1906 businessman Pere Milá invested his new wife’s money by commissioning Antoni Gaudí to build an apartment and office block called Casa Milá. Completed in 1912, scornful critics nicknamed the lumpy stone creation “La Pedrera,” meaning “The Quarry,” which became its more common title. These critics did not appreciate what a feat it is that the undulating façade is not just a facade :), it’s truly structural, completely self-supporting.
The extravagant Pere Milá was one of the first car owners in Barcelona. To accommodate him, Gaudí included parking space under La Pedrera–perhaps the first underground garage!
The architect ultimately resigned from the project. A devout Catholic (as evidenced by the awe inspiring Sagrada Familia and other liturgical creations), Gaudí wished to place a towering statue of the Virgin Mary atop La Pedrera. The Milá family protested, fearing Anarchist attacks. Gaudí quit in contempt.
Nevertheless, the roof serves as something of a sculpture garden. The Darth Vader-looking pillars there (approximately twice human height) and the soft serve ice cream-like swirls are practical as well. The Darth Vaders are ventilation towers, and the ice cream swirls are chimneys! The Fundació Caixa Catalunya makes it possible for the public to visit this surreal rooftop and hosts summer concerts there. Visitors can also tour the attic (a modest Gaudí museum) and the top-floor apartment furnished in the style of a wealthy family of the early 20th century. La Pedrera has also been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.