Located on Barcelona’s ritzy Passeig de Gràcia, La Pedrera (or Casa Milà as it’s officially named) is one of Antoni Gaudí’s most iconic architectural masterpieces. Listed and protected by UNESCO, it’s also one of the most famous Modernista buildings in Barcelona, if not the world.
La Pedrera is definitely one of the main Gaudí buildings (get your skip-the-line tickets here) I would recommend visiting while you’re in Barcelona, along with Casa Batlló, (just across the street), La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell.
Here’s everything you need to know about this glorious icon.
The Back Story
Built between 1906 and 1912, La Pedrera was designed to house luxury apartments and offices.
It was commissioned by Pere Milà, after whom the building is officially named ‘Casa Milà’. Mr Milà became rich beyond his wildest dreams after marrying Roser Guardiola. Roser was the widow of colonist Josep Guardiola, who made vast fortunes from coffee plantations in Guatemala.
Roser and Pere kept one floor for themselves and rented out the rest to wealthy aristocrats and companies who wanted an office at an address of notoriety.
As with many of the buildings built at this time in Barcelona’s exclusive Eixample neighbourhood, the whole point of La Pedrera was to demonstrate just how much money Pere and Roser had in the bank.
Hiring Antoni Gaudí was in itself an act of bravado and decadence, while they would have made it clear to him that they wanted something to top all of the other opulent show homes built along this famously glitzy thoroughfare.
It was actually this desire to not only keep up with but out-do the Joneses that gave birth to the Modernista architectural movement.
Point in case, La Pedrera was the first property in Barcelona to feature an underground garage, with the aim of making sure everyone knew that Pere and Roser were among the first to have the privilege of owning their own set of wheels.
Gaudi was an immensely religious man and believed that “the straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God”.
If you study the façade of La Pedrera (or pretty much any part of the building, whether inside or out), you’ll notice that there’s not a single straight line to be seen.
Gaudí’s dedication to God and the work of Mother Nature can be seen throughout La Pedrera.
The unpolished stone face mimics ripples carved into cliff faces by waves, or the wrinkles that can be found on a beach after a falling tide. The intricate wrought-iron balconies rest like clumps of seaweed washed up on a beach.
The Apartments and Patios
Inside, the nature-inspired beauty continues with elaborate carpentry and colourful details that shimmer as if you were walking through the inside of an exotic seashell.
Gaudí even found time to design furniture for the property, which really hints at his genius (and work ethic).
Believing that it was the first thing God would see of his work when looking down from above, Gaudí also lavished the roof with his design prowess.
Described as “the garden of warriors” by the poet Pere Gimferrer, the giant chimneys stand like desert crusading marauders carved from sand dunes.
Ceramic tiles adorn arches and doorways, making them look like gargantuan sea snails sliding over an ocean bed.
Top tip: I highly recommend going to one the live music nights held on the rooftop of La Pedrera. I can’t imagine a more picturesque place to be at sunset in Barcelona. Check out my dedicated post (with lots of photos) here.
Interesting Facts About La Pedrera/Casa Milà
The Locals Hated it
Although Casa Milà is regarded as one of the finest examples of Catalan Modernism, and one of the most revered buildings in Barcelona, it hasn’t always been so.
Upon completion, the locals (and those in the design/architecture world) weren’t quite sure what to make of the colourless stone façade and raw iron balconies.
Casa Milà became the subject of stinging satire and was widely denigrated by the people of Barcelona.
‘La Pedrera’ is Actually a (Very Unkind) Nickname
From the streets to newspaper headlines, Casa Milà was frequently referred to as ‘La Pedrera’, which literally translates as ‘the quarry’.
This unfair nickname hinted at the colourless, undulating stone façade, and was by no means meant as a compliment.
La Pedrera was an Engineering Marvel as Well as an Architectural Triumph
As with the design, La Pedrera’s self-supporting façade and parabolic arches (visible in the attic) were way ahead of their time in engineering terms.
They also meant the building could be built without the use of interior load-bearing walls.
This allowed Gaudí to get creative with the layout of the apartments, and also allowed residents to knock down walls as they wished, to customise the layout of their living spaces.
Gaudí’s Organic Designs Were a Nightmare to Live with
Although the lack of straight lines (and walls) were visually intriguing and extremely progressive from a design perspective, many residents complained that they struggled to fit their furniture in the peculiarly shaped rooms.
Roser even complained to Gaudí that there was no straight wall against which to place her Steinway piano. Apparently, Gaudí, ever the cheeky chops, suggested she picked up the violin instead.
Gaudí Quit the Project
Gaudí’s original design plans incorporated a huge statue of the Virgin Mary, which would have stood proudly on the roof.
The Milà family, however, were fearful that this might ruffle some feathers and make their new home a target for anarchists.
In disgust, Gaudí quit the project on the spot.
People Still Live in La Pedrera
Writer Ana Viladomiu, author of The Last Neighbour, has lived on the fourth floor of La Pedrera for over 30 years.
I am absolutely fascinated by her and her story, but there’s surprisingly little information out there about her (I guess I’ll have to read the book).
How did she come to live here? How has she managed to pay the rent, which I can only imagine is a fortune? Why live here if you have that kind of money?
Update: I’ve since read that Viladomiu says her rent has only increased in small increments since her and her husband moved in all those years ago (before it was listed by UNESCO). Apparently she’s getting quite the bargain…
At the time of writing, there are apparently two other people living in La Pedrera, including Carmen Burgos, interviewed here.
Tip: Definitely be sure to visit during the Summer Nights, when you can explore the surreal chimneys on the roof whilst enjoying live jazz and cava as the sun sets over Barcelona.
Make it Happen
Tickets: Definitely spend the extra euro or two for the skip-the-line ticket and audio guide – buy online here for €24.
Looking for live music? Also be sure to check out the rooftop live music shows – more info in my dedicated post (with lots of photos) here.
Want to stay nearby? Eixample is arguably the best area to stay in during your visit to Barcelona. Find my many Barcelona hotel reviews and recommendations here.
While you’re here: Also be sure to check out the man other Modernista marvels nearby. Casa Batlló is just across the street and there are plenty of other iconic buildings within strolling distance – see this map and guide for more details or check out the links below.