There are a number of buildings within Barcelona that vie for the title of being the prime example of Antoni Gaudí’s work as a designer and architect. The Sagrada Familia is of course the biggest most popular with visitors, but it’s vastness makes it impersonal, and harder to grasp the impact of his work. Park Guell is far more hands on, but here it’s more about decoration than practicality, and Gaudí’s own house is outside the Park Boundary so not part of a visit.
Casa Battlo perhaps? Extravagant and eccentric, and smaller scale so easier to understand. It’s so full of visitors however that the rooms are largely empty to facilitate their passage around the building so you get less of a picture of life in such a building. Nevertheless it is possible to see the design similarities with other European variants of Art Nouveau; the naturalistic curves of door and window frames are reminiscent of Hector Guimard’s Paris Metro signs, the rose of Rennie Mackintosh, or the French interiors seen in The Danish Girl (though these were actually shot at the Victor Horta museum in Brussels).
So where gets my vote? That would be Casa Milà, the large apartment block just a stone’s throw from Casa Battlo. Here you find it all; architectural innovations like a self-supporting façade that is structurally independent of the building behind it, an underground garage that now seems such an obvious solution, and the twisting chimneys of the roof top which better allow smoke to exit. Then there is the decoration be it the wrought iron exterior railings, the courtyard murals, or the curving plaster walls. The sinuous and sensual furniture. The detail of door handles and drawer pulls.
There is the catenary ribcage of the attic room (which also provides a convenient display space for an exhibit on Gaudí’s style) and the rolling and alien landscape of the rooftop.
There is so much of significance on display here that it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, but then the other Gaudí works mentioned here also have that status! The cornucopia of creativity on display isn’t solely the work of Gaudí; the wrought-iron balconies for example were designed by Jujol, but his vision is at the heart of the construction.
Casa Mila is the building’s correct name, having been commissioned by Barcelona businessman Pere Milà i Camps, but it has long been known as The Quarry, though in Spanish it translates as something which to my ear sounds far less prosaic. For a structure so rich with curves the feminine nomenclature seems the most appropriate choice; La Pedrera.