Left: Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Milà Terraces in Barcelona
Above: Antoni Gaudi 1852– 1926 Born in Reus, Spain
Catalan architect/engineer Antoni Gaudi’s last project before devoting his life to the Basilica of Sagrada Familia was an urban apartment building for Pere Milà and family. Casa Milà, or as it is often called, “La Pedrera” (“the quarry”) was a building as innovative structurally as it was visually when completed in 1910. By the standards of the early 20th century, there is an unusually high ratio of glass for apartments, as Gaudi chose to make the exterior walls non-load-bearing, which also permitted nearly every exterior surface to be curving. Some apartments have sliding windows with wrought and cast iron railings (French balconies), while others are full balconies with elaborate railings in the same material, and designed with organically-inspired motifs by artist Josep Maria Jujol.
Gaudi’s extravagant residential terrace details serve to assertively frame resident’s views out to the Barcelona neighbourhood of Eixample. This has echoes in the east and west-looking balconies of Vancouver House, which are framed out to boldly define views, and are set with copper plate soffits or side walls, and all boast ceramic tile flooring. The roof terrace of Casa Milà is even more dramatic, a meandering path for residents to over-look the city, where the architectural necessities of skylights, smoke-stacks and air vents are clad in ceramic shards to form startling evocations of living creatures and human figures. Vancouver House designer Bjarke Ingels speaks of the form of his building as being like a curtain at the moment of being pulled open, proof that organic forms can enhance the city-scape, whether the vista is the Mediterranean or the Pacific.