La Pedrera: the stone, iron, wood and glass heart of Barcelona
Text: Roberto Herrscher. Photos: Fundació Catalunya – La Pedrera
La Pedrera turns 100 next year, and it looks like a new-born baby. The building, constructed by Modernisme genius Antoni Gaudí between 1906 and 1912, has recently undergone a major face renewal: for almost a year, a giant scaffold covered the whole cream-colored front of the most striking building along the Passeig de Gràcia Avenue.
Month after month, ten-meter high billboards showed sports cars, bejeweled models, and sports stars promoting perfumes. And then, as if the magic of 103 years ago came to life again, the new images of power and self-glorification were gone and the old, magnificent stone front was there again.
It was the third such refurbishing of the building, and one of the most thorough. The surface is now cleaner, clearer and smoother, the intricate iron balconies look more menacing and the light shines now with a bigger glory in the interior patios.
That has always been one of the marvels of La Pedrera: that a seven-story building could be built in such a way as to favor the entrance of natural light down to the lower windows and the spacious patios. Another is the snakelike chromatic gradation and the swerving surface of the internal walls. Gaudí thought and labored as much in the inside as in the outside of this livable work of art.
One century ago, La Pedrera was commissioned by the rich Milà family, who were friends of the architect’s patron Eusebi Güell. It was to be a typical apartment building, with a few minor differences: the very best masons, iron casters, carpenters, interior and furniture designers would make it a work of art, and the best and craziest of all architects would fulfill his dream of a huge house where not a single straight line breaks the permanent, oozing sinuosity of this dynamic structure.
The Milàs would use one of the floors, and other adventurous bourgeois families would occupy the rest. Some of the descendants of these families still use the floors that are not museums or part of the Fundació Catalunya – La Pedrera (the current owner) space, mainly the lower levels.
La Pedrera is almost as widely visited today by tourists as the Gaudí favorite, La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and more than its sister buildings, Casa Batlló and Palau Güell. The ceiling, with its convoluted chimneys that turn upwards like the soft spiral of cigar smoke, are a must for night visits: in summertime jazz concerts fill the thick air with sinuous melodies. All in all, about one million tourists visit La Pedrera every year.
And being the wide, luxurious, green Passeig de Gràcia avenue one of the main gateways in and out of the city, it is very common for Barcelona dwellers to look up from their stroll, from a taxi or a bus and contemplate the marvel that Antoni Gaudí designed for their solace one century ago. How much was he paid? Peanuts on today’s standards but a fortune in those days: 105,000 pesetas, a little over 630 euros. The Milàs had to mortgage their 4,000 square meter property to pay the architect. But Gaudí, forever the mystic monk, donated the money to the Jesuits for charity.
In 1984 UNESCO declared La Pedrera a World Heritage Site. But the million visitors who flock to move around its tentacles every year did not need this declaration. They have always come out with the firm idea that they have been inside a building like no other in the world.
Provença, 261 – 265, Barcelona
Timeable: Monday to Sundays, from 9.00 to 20.30.
Visits by night: from 20.30 to 23.30.
Tickets: day visit: 20.50 €; students and disables: 16.50 €;
childrens: 14.75 €. Night visit: 27 €
Ph.: 902 202 138
More information: www.lapedrera.com
Cafè de la Pedrera
Text and Photos: Juan Pedro Chuet-Missé.
The entrance is small, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. Right on the corners of Paseo de Gràcia and Provenza is a staircase that takes you up to Café de La Pedrera, to an open mezzanine floor that offers you some interesting gastronomic alternatives for breakfast, lunch or just simply a space where you can enjoy some after-work drinks.
The space maintains the characteristics of Casa Milá, like the plaster figures on the ceiling, representing waves at sea, and the stone based pillars. There is a small corner in the saloon where homage is paid to Gaudí, with some modernist-style chairs and the architect’s signature printed on the wall reminding us of the genius Catalan artist. The big picture windows allows guests to enjoy the impressive sight of Passeig de Gràcia, as well as the interior of one of the building’s inner courtyards.
To start the day, there is a healthy classic-style breakfast of toast with butter and jam, or eggs Benedict, natural juices, and freshly made croissants and pain au chocolates.
And when lunchtime arrives, the chefs at the Café create dishes like brown crab with avocado and lemon, or deboned Iberian pork ribs cooked on a slow heat. And with regards to confectionery, the chef’s suggestion is to try the fruit (orange, mandarin or lemon) tarts or the coconut foam with toffee, and the apple sorbet.