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Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona

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Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Gregori Civera for Harper's Bazaar Arabia

Casa Milà is a Modernista building in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Built between 1906 and 1912, the building was commissioned by Roser Segimón and her second husband, Pere Milà, in 1905 with the intention of living on the main floor and renting out the rest of the apartments, hence the name Casa Milà: the new home of the Milà family. The building is popularly known as La Pedrera (the stone quarry), in reference to its unconventional rough-hewn appearance.

Casa Milà consists of two buildings structured around two courtyards that provide light to its nine stories: the basement, ground floor, mezzanine, main (or noble) floor, four upper floors and an attic. The basement was used as a garage for parking (Barcelona’s first underground car park, in fact); the Milàs lived on the main floor (in a 1,323 square metre flat), and distributed over the rest of the floors were over 20 apartments that were available for rent. The attic housed laundry rooms and drying areas, and on the roof is the famous sculpture terrace, as well as skylights, emergency stairs, fans, and chimneys constructed out of brick covered with lime, broken marble, or glass, each with a specific architectural function. The different shapes and sizes of the two courtyards create an asymmetrical "8", and the circular layout of the apartments helps all the rooms to harness natural light. The apartments also featured plastered ceilings with dynamic reliefs, handcrafted wooden doors, windows and furniture, as well as hydraulic tiles and other ornamental elements. The ceilings inside the apartments of Casa Milà vary: some are in high relief, while others bear inscriptions and even poems; all continue the undulating rhythms of the building's façade. The main access to the apartments were by elevator except for the noble (main) floor, which was accessed by a prominent staircase. The stairways were intended to be used as service entries. As Gaudí wanted the building's residents to all know each other, there were only elevators on every other floor, making it so that people on different floors would meet one another.

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole

The architect José María Jujol Gibert (16 September 1879 – 1 May 1949), whose design styles were Modernisme and Art Nouveau, designed the twisting wrought iron balconies at Casa Milà

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
via @thekairoscollective
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu

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Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Gregori Civera for Harper's Bazaar Arabia
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole

An apartment building for Barcelona’s nouveau riche at the time, Casa Milà, with its rippling limestone façade, sits at the corner of Carrer Provença and Passieg de Gràcia. The building, considered an eyesore among many locals, languished for decades (much like the rest of Barcelona), until the city was rediscovered and revamped as host city for the 1992 Olympic Games.

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
La Pedrera

Above: Antoni Gaudí 's last completed work in Barcelona, the Casa Milà

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@juliaaashchegol
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
La Pedrera

Today, Casa Milà currently houses the central offices of the Catalunya La Pedrera Foundation and also continues to serve its original function as a block of rented residential apartments. Other uses for the building include tourism, with the building open to the public for visiting by day and night; as a cultural centre that hosts exhibitions, conferences and other activities; and as a commercial centre with space for hire, company offices, and shops on the ground floor. As mentioned previously, there are still rented residential apartments in the building that are home to families that have been living there for more than 70 years: three tenants to be specific. At least, there were three at the time. In 2019, El País reported that writer Ana Viladomi "is no longer one of the residents of La Pedrera: she is the last. Apart from a woman named Carmeta who is never there, she is the only tenant who continues to live among the cast iron pillars, stone chimneys, bright and airy courtyards and security paraphernalia."

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu

Left: One week a year the building is closed to the public for a tidy up

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Gregori Civera / via El País

The entrance to the house features a bicycle and a rug designed by Óscar Tusquets

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
“anette trabajando” photo by @mariaamat.arquitecta / via @ana_viladomiu

Ana Viladomiu has been living on the fourth floor of La Pedrera for the past 30 years. “I moved in here for love,” the author told Harper's Bazaar once in an interview in 2020. It was the mid-eighties and her love was Fernando Amat, a champion of contemporary design and the owner of the homewares store Vinçon, located next door to La Pedrera. (The store closed in 2015 after 86 years). Amat was already living in the Casa Milà when the two met, as a tenant with a life-long rental agreement. Viladomiu, pregnant with their first child, moved in. After raising two daughters together, Amat moved out in 2015, leaving her alone in the 350-square-metre apartment⏤the daughters, Nina and María, who are both now architects themselves⏤long gone, trading the fishbowl life of La Predrera for the anonymity of apartments in the El Raval neighbourhood of Barcelona.

It was here that Viladomiu wrote her third book, La última vecina (The Last Tenant), a fictionalised account of her experience living in La Pedrera. In these photos, we catch a glimpse inside her fourth floor space in the historic building, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu

Modernista Movement

Modernista refers to the 19th Century art and literature movement in Catalan Culture in Spain expressed through drawings, paintings, designs, decorative arts and architecture. The Modernisme movement was centred in the city of Barcelona (though it reached far beyond) and is best known for its architectural expression, especially in the work of Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, but was also significant in sculpture, poetry, theatre and painting.

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Fotografía Salva López / via Santa & Cole
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu

Antoni Gaudí

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a Catalan architect from Spain and one of the most famous architects of the first half of the 20th-century. He was a pioneering figure of Art Nouveau and modernisme (Catalan Modernism). Gaudí's works have a highly individualised, distinctive style, and most are located in Barcelona, including his main work, the church of the Sagrada Família. Gaudí's work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion. He considered every detail of his creations and integrated into his architecture such crafts as ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry. He also introduced new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as trencadís which used waste ceramic pieces. Under the influence of neo-Gothic art and Oriental techniques, Gaudí became part of the Modernista movement which peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by natural forms. Gaudí rarely drew detailed plans of his works, preferring to create them as three-dimensional scale models and moulding the details as he conceived them. Seven of his structures—Park Güell, Palacio Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, the Nativity façade and crypt of La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, and the crypt in Colonia Güell—are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The architect graduated from Barcelona’s School of Architecture in 1878. At the time, the institution’s director, Elies Rogent, famously said, “I do not know if we have awarded this degree to a madman or to a genius; only time will tell.” Gaudi's idiosyncratic, madcap style pushed the boundaries of 20th-century architectural conventions.

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@michal_hrcka_obnova

A million visitors visit the landmark Barcelona building every year. Since 1996, over 20 million people from all over the world have visited Casa Milà (La Pedrera), making the average 3,000 visitors a day.

Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
Ana Viladomiu / Gregori Civera for El País
Design History | Décor Inspiration: The Last Resident of Casa Milà, Barcelona
@ana_viladomiu



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