The Quarry: Yabba Dabba Doo or A Most Unusual Abode

La PedreraResidents of Barcelona call the house “La Pedrera” (The Quarry) or “Casa Mila” after its first owners and, when we saw this totally unique abode, it was hard for us to put into words what was in front of our eyes. The building, constructed between 1906 and 1910, was an earthy sinuous form with a undulating exterior adorned with angular, black, wrought iron balconies as a startling contrast.  Perhaps because of our particular cultural backgrounds of Saturday morning cartoons we thought at once of “The Flintstones” and a huge “Yabba Dabba Doo” cave-like dwelling rather than a quarry with its crumbled rocks and (Barney) rubble strewn ground. Whatever we thought though, we knew we had to see this most unusual building.  Disheartened at first by the long lines waiting for admittance we found another entry with a much shorter line and paid six Euros extra each for the privilege of an expedited entry into the building.

inside-outside balcony

inside-outside balcony

Inside the buidling inner courtyard

Inside the building inner courtyard

We’d done a bit of homework before our visit and learned that, in keeping with the other affluent Barcelona residents of the day (and no different from now) the original owners, Pera Mila and his wife, Roser Segimon (of whom it was rumored he’d fallen for her purse rather than her charms) hoped to dazzle and impress their fellow neighbors.  To that end they engaged one of the premier architects of the 20th century and Barcelona’s favorite son, Antoni Gaudi, to design a trendy apartment building which included their own very spacious apartment.  And, whatever their original intentions, it looks like they gave Gaudi free rein. Gaudi was a fascinating man. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were coppersmiths and he grew up with the artisan heritage. In his youth he was greatly influenced by nature and incorporated this theme into his works throughout his life. Upon graduating as an architect in Barcelona in 1878 a professor is reputed to have remarked, “Either we’ve graduated a genius or a madman.”  In his early professional life he worked for and on behalf of the proletariat, then moved on to the bourgeoisie and finally became a devout Catholic and remained so until his death working under the auspices of the Church. It was during the middle period, when working with the bourgeoisie, that he accepted the commission to design the Casa Mila.La Pedrera After receiving our tickets for a self-guided tour we were equipped with audio headsets, selected English as our language of choice and were transported via the original elevator to THE ROOF.  The nearby roofs were just as expected, unspectacularly cluttered with satellite dishes, TV antennas, air shafts, duct works, AC units, the occasional solar panel and cats. But Casa Mila’s roof was a fantasyland: a kaleidoscopic arrangement of varied elevations with chimneys, ventilation shafts and duct works ornamented by sculptural coverings topped by what might have been mistaken as medieval knights wearing helmets. Some, decorating the ventilation shafts and the exits in particular, were covered with broken ceramic and marble tiles or glass forming colorful mosaics which reflected the sunlight. It wasn’t hard to imagine ourselves playing hide-n-seek in the vast, multi-leveled surface that wrapped around the light well dropping down through the floors. roof & sculptures  Following a staircase down a few steps we entered into the attic, originally a laundry and storage area, designed so that heat could rise through and out the open exits to keep the attic cool. This was not the typical, cramped and dingy attic of old but a huge space filled with 273 brick parabolic arches of varying heights that corresponded with the topography of the roof for which they provided support. Windows were placed intermittently and allowed light in, lending an airy and expansive feeling to this area. A small museum with models of Gaudi’s other defining works were on display.arches  kitchen Dropping down one level we were able to tour the one large apartment on the sixth floor open to the public, a welcoming, gracious and spacious living space. (We were ready right then to beckon for our suitcases!)  There were windows on the exterior walls, facing the city, and on the interior walls, facing the central light well so that each room was filled with natural light. No detail escaped Gaudi’s attention and the walls, ceilings, parquet and tiled floors, windows and window frames, doors and door frames, door handles and door pulls were all his creations: graceful, whimsical, beautiful designs that worked together and reflected his genius. And the size of the place – there were, if the count was correct, twelve rooms: a children’s bedroom, nanny’s room, sewing room, kitchen, bathroom, formal sitting and dining rooms, a master bedroom with ensuite bath (a novelty at the time) and more. The apartment was furnished in period pieces reflecting elegance and good taste, posh and plush. entry  Pere Milà died in 1940 and his wife, Roser Segimon, sold the building in 1946.  Over the years additional apartments were added and the space housed offices, an academy and even a bingo hall.  By the 1980’s Casa Milà was in poor condition and deteriorating while many of Gaudi’s decorative elements were lost forever with each renovation.  However, in 1969 Gaudi’s work received official recognition as an Historico-artistic Monument and in 1984 his work was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its “uniqueness, artistic and heritage value.”  In 1986 the Caixa de Catalunya Foundation bought La Pedrera and urgently needed work began in the following year on the restoration and cleaning of the façade as well as, eventually, all of the locations now open to the public.

Ground floor entry and staircase

Ground floor entry and staircase

It’s not hard to imagine what the residents of Barcelona thought during the construction of La Pedrera, a controversial building totally unique to its time.  It was filled with many architectural innovations such as an underground parking structure built to accommodate Senior Milas’s automobile and novelties including an elevator, a rarity at the time. However, we knew what we thought about Casa Mila by the time we reached the lobby in the planta baja (the ground floor) and returned our audio headsets.  Taking a last look around the entrance with its sweeping staircase leading to the upper floors we knew that we had truly been gifted by seeing this work of Antoni Gaudi, the talented genius-madman architect.roof By Richard and Anita

30 comments

  • Thank you for the pictures and for sharing your experience in Barcelona! Originally from Spain, I’ve been there many times and I absolutely loved it. I hope you two are enjoying life in the Peninsula. You got a new follower 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for following our blog and we’re so glad to have a chance to share our thoughts about our travel experiences. Barcelona is one of our most favorite cities and we had a hard time leaving it after our month-long stay. There are so many places to see and things to learn and do that we vowed to return at some point. And luckily, Spain is right across the border from where we live now in the Algarve. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to visit your country at our leisure!

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  • I love pictures of Barcelona. You’re my second WordPress friend there this week. Is there some sort of blogging conference going on there?

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    • Barcelona’s such a photogenic city it’s almost impossible to walk around without your camera. We arrived in the city to spend the month of May there and found (hundreds? thousands?) of travel bloggers in the area for a TBEX conference in nearby Costa Brava. Maybe your friend was there … ? We totally missed out on the fun but managed to track down a couple of blogging buddies and meet for a couple of meals. Maybe someday we’ll plan a bit better to attend a bloggers conference – I hear they’re lots of fun!

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  • We missed La Pedrara when we visited Barcelona, but Yabba Dabba Doo! We sure won’t next time.

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  • Honestly this is the best description I have read about La Pedrera. It is such an unusual, eye-catching, mind-blowing structure. The chimneys were our favorite. Gaudi is a marvel. I traveled to Barcelona with my daughter and my husband has never been. He will want to book a ticket after reading this and seeing your photos!

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    • Thanks Suzanne. It’s such a fantastic and unique building that we imagine the first responses are “Love it” or “Leave it (off your list)!” As you can see, we were totally taken with the sheer creativity and whimsy of this building and would recommend this as a sight definitely worth seeing on your husband’s first visit!

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  • I totally love the organic nature and undulating roofline and I remember the very interesting apartments you get to explore in its original state so that really was a great tour and museum visit of La Pedrara

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  • It’s the mark of architectural genius to design visually arresting buildings that are actually livable. We loved the undulating lines of Casa Mila and regretted we were time constrained and unable to visit during our stays in Barcelona. Must.Stay.Longer next time! Thanks for the tour of the apartment, too. Would so see myself living there (although a bit to large for who we’ve become!).

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    • Your last sentence made me think about our own definitions of living space, Betsy. Right now we’re reveling in the “ginormous” 2 bedroom apartment that we’re renting but in a few weeks we’ll be in a hotel room for several days and then visiting family and camping out in the guest room. Not having much gives us a lot more freedom although I really can see moving into La Pedrera for a bit!

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  • Thanks for the tip about the expedited entry. Will have to go visit next time we are in Barcelona! Great article!

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  • We saw Casa Milà from the outside when we were recently in Barcelona but we didn’t realise until later that you could get the admission without standing in line tickets, more is the pity. We did see a lot of Gaudi’s works and I go with genius/anti-modern modernist (not my own words but the words of a person we met in Barcelona)

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    • We noticed two entrances to La Pedrera and, by luck, found the line where we could “grease” our way in to see the building with a few extra Euros. We found out after our visit that you could buy your tickets online too, which would have cut the waiting time to nothing. When you only have a few days in a city like Barcelona you definitely don’t want to spend your time waiting in line!

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  • To think that in the 1980’s, this amazing architecturally unique apartment building was almost lost to the world. Thank goodness for the Caixa de Catalunya Foundation that restored the incredible work of Antoni Gaudi. Another fantastic post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like clothing, music and art, architecture also has styles and periods where the most unusual, daring, nonconformist and nontraditional designs aren’t appreciated or cared for. Even now, the building is a fantastical standout and it’s wonderful that Gaudi’s works were recognized by Spain and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as being the creations of a “genius versus a madman!”

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  • Utterly amazing. All that stone work – it almost seems too heavy to stand upright. I am so happy to be able to pre-tour with you. Thanks for the travel tip!

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  • Great post. We visited La Perdrera in Barcelona several years ago and your beautifully written, researched piece made the place come alive again! Loved the views from the roof~ Great tip about the “express” lane!

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  • It sounds like a great time. This is the first time I have read your blog. I have only a year left before I embark on my early retirement journey. I plan on a lot of traveling too, but mostly here in the USA.

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  • I toured Casa Mila when I was in Barcelona. It is indeed an interesting building. I’m fascinated with all of Gaudi’s works. The rooftop was intriguing but I admit it made me a bit dizzy. My favourite part was the apartment – I wanted to live in it!

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  • What a wonderful place!! You two sure find the best places to check out. Happy travels!
    Suzi

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