© Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodor’s Travel
Usually referred to as La Pedrera (The Stone Quarry), this building, with its wavy, curving stone facade undulating around the corner of the block, is one of Gaudí's most celebrated yet initially reviled designs. Topped by chimneys so eerie they were nicknamed espantabruxes (witch scarers), the Casa Milà was unveiled in 1910 to the horror of local residents. The sudden appearance of this strange facade on the city's most fashionable street led to the immediate coining of unflattering descriptions; newspapers called it the "Rock Pile," and made unflattering references to the gypsy cave dwellings in Granada's Sacromonte. The exterior has no straight lines; the curlicues and wrought-iron foliage of the balconies, sculpted by Josep Maria Jujol, and the rippling, undressed stone, made you feel, as one critic put it, "as though you are on board a ship in an angry sea."
The building was originally meant to be dedicated to the Mother of God and crowned with a sculpture
of the Virgin Mary. The initial design was altered by owner Pere Milà i Camps, who, after the anticlerical violence of the Setmana Tràgica (Tragic Week) of 1909, decided that the religious theme would be an invitation to a new outbreak of mayhem. Gaudí's rooftop chimney park, alternately interpreted as veiled Saharan women or helmeted warriors, is as spectacular as anything in Barcelona, especially in late afternoon, when the sunlight slants over the city into the Mediterranean. Inside, the handsome Espai Gaudí (Gaudí Space) in the attic has excellent critical displays of Gaudí's works from all over Spain, as well as explanations of theories and techniques, including an upside-down model (a reproduction of the original in the Sagrada Família museum) of the Güell family crypt at Santa Coloma, made of weighted hanging strings. This hanging model is based on the theory of the reversion of the catenary, which says that a chain suspended from two points will spontaneously hang in the exact shape of the inverted arch required to convert the stress to compression, thus providing structural support. The Pis de la Pedrera apartment is an interesting look into the life of a family that lived in La Pedrera in the early 20th century. Everything from the bathroom to the kitchen is filled with reminders of how comprehensively life has changed in the last century. People still live in the other apartments.
In the summer high season the lines of visitors waiting to see the Pedrera can stretch a block or more; if you can, sign up for a Pedrera Secreta (Secret Pedrera) private guided tour of the building by night, offered with or without dinner, daily Mar.–Oct. between 8:15 pm and midnight, Nov.–Feb. Wed.–Sat. from 7:15 to 11. Bookings are essential: call 902/202138 or reserve online at reserves@lapedreracom. There are also guided tours in various languages, weekdays at 6 pm, weekends at 11 am; call 902/202138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for bookings and information. On Nits d'Estiu (Summer nights: Thurs., Fri., and Sat., Jun. 20–Sept. 7) the Espai Gaudí and the roof terrace are open for drinks and jazz concerts; the doors open at 9:45 pm and concerts begin at 10:30. Admission is €27.
Passeig de Gràcia 92, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08008, Spain