Mark Harden's Artchive Gaudi, Antoni
Casa Milà, known as "La Pedrera" ("the quarry")
1905-1910
Barcelona, Spain

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Robert Hughes, Barcelona: the Great Enchantress:

A property developer named Pere Mila i Camps commissioned a new building from Gaudi. The Casa Mila, as it was called, was designed from the ground up, not adapted from an existing building. Its owner gave the architect a free hand. (By then it was clearly pointless not to give Gaudi complete design autonomy; without it, he would not consider a commission.)

He produced a sea cliff with caves in it for people. Its forged iron balconies are based on kelp and coral incrustation. Though La Pedrera ("the stone quarry," as Casa Mila was soon christened) looks formidably solid, with its massive projections and overhangs like the eye sockets of a Cyclopean head, it is much less so than it looks. The mighty folds and trunks of stone are actually more like stage grottoes. Despite its dramatic plasticity the stone is a skin and not, like true masonry, self supporting.

Thus the Casa Mila becomes a kind of hermaphroditic fortress: on one hand, its maternal aspect - soft swelling, shelter, undulation; on the other the bizarre and contradictory "guardians" on the roof, invisible from the street. These are intensely masculine, so much so that George Lucas's costume designers based the figures of Darth Vader and the Death Star's guards on them - air breathing and smoke bearing totems, helmeted centurions which serve as chimneys and ventilators for the apartments below.