Gaudí the Great: Part I
Antoni Gaudí is one of the most unique, approachable, and extraordinary architectural influencers of the late 19th century and early 20th century. He participated in the Catalan Modernista movement, but eventually transcended any defined style by creating one of his own—one of organic shapes, nature-inspired details, and groundbreaking techniques.
Jean-Noël recently traveled to Barcelona and had the pleasure of experiencing Gaudí’s four main réalisations (achievements): Casa Milà, Casa Batlloó, Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia. This week we will take a look at the first two, Casa Milà and Batlló.
Gaudí was commissioned to design Casa Milà by Roser Segimon, a wealthy widow, and her second husband Pere Milà, to be their private residence. This modernist building is also known as La Pedrera, or “open quarry”, which is a reference to the rough-hewn and irregular exterior. Gaudí used ruled geometry and naturalistic elements to design the house as a constant curve, on both the inside and outside.
Casa Milà is especially noteworthy for its self-supporting stone facade, which uses curved iron beams to connect the facade to the internal structure of each floor. This allows internal walls to be built and torn down without impacting the stability of the building.
Also of note is the use of catenary arches. At the time, the catenary curve was a mechanical element that was used solely to build suspension bridges. Gaudí was the first to use this technique in an architectural context. These arches distribute the weight they carry evenly, therefore allowing Gaudí to create structures of considerable strength.
Casa Batlló is a remodel and redesign done by Gaudí in 1904. It is also known locally as Casa dels ossos, or “house of bones”, for its visceral and skeletal exterior. The famed arched roof has been likened to the spine of a dragon or dinosaur, which is said to be speared by the lance of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia, Gaudí’s home), represented by the turret and cross to the left of the arch.
The overall design of the building can broadly be attributed to Modernism or Art Nouveau, though in Gaudí’s typical fashion, it is largely a creation of his own unmistakable style and imagination. The facade has three distinct sections, most of which are covered with broken ceramic tiles in colorful mosaic designs. The ground floor is especially unique, with irregular oval windows and flowing stonework, the middle floor has curved skeletal balconies, while the top floor is the same level as the roof and contains some of the most intricate mosaics.
Gaudí’s lack of linear design and incorporation of colorful ornamentation continues on the interior as well.
Gaudí’s work is very clearly his own, and we will look into more of his réalisations next week!