Gaudí door handle
Door handle for Casa Milà ('La Pedrera'), model 1 is a brass fixture designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in 1910.
The piece was made by the architect squeezing a ball of clay to create an impression of his hand, from which a mold was made and subsequently cast in metal. The fixture is intended to conform to the shape of the human grip, its volume providing the negative space around which the user can wrap their palm and fingers, in what is often seen an early implementation of ergonomics in design.
The door handle was produced for the Casa Milà ('La Pedrera') apartment building in Barcelona, and the architect used similar processes to design door and window fixtures—as well as fittings and furnishings—for Casa Milà and other buildings between 1902 and 1910, including the Casa Calvet and Casa Batlló. A spy hole for an apartment door of the Casa Calvet was produced by the architect sticking his finger into a block of clay to create a honeycombed grid of openings. The oak chair Gaudí designed for the dining room of the Casa Batlló employed body imprints in clay to find its form before being carved in wood. The Batlló chair seems to overflow its shape at the back of its seat, and its legs twist at the point where they touch the floor, as if under the weight of the user; the seat rest has what look like two enlarged thumb prints on its wings, as if it has been picked up while still soft.
Juan José Lahuerta, Professor of Art History at the Barcelona School of Architecture, has written: "In leaving the marks of his body, thrusting his fingers into alienated, chaotic matter, what was Gaudí doing but recreating the act of the Creator, who not only gave form to the clay but, breathing on it, gave it life? [...] Accordingly, and increasingly over the course of his career, Gaudí's forms are as immediate as a handprint: they come from a gesture that does not admit corrections or pentimenti, because it is directly and simultaneously the creative gesture and the gesture of the Creator."
The Casa Milà door handle's play on soft and hard is a characteristic that has often been applied to Gaudí's architecture as a whole. Henry-Russell Hitchcock, in an essay published on the occasion of the retrospective devoted to Gaudí at MoMA, New York, in 1957, writes of the "strange biological plasticity" of the Park Güell, and notes how "From a distance the exterior of "La Pedrera" looks as if it were all freely modeled in some clay-like substance...".
Fellow Catalan Salvador Dalí, in his celebrated 1933 essay on Gaudí and Art Nouveau, took the metaphor a step further, extolling the liquid, and ultimately “edible”, forms of 'La Pedrera'. For Dalí, an object like the Casa Milà door handle, though it had functionalism as both its means and its end, is nevertheless ripe with an "extra-plastic" excess that is ultimately "neurotic" and “irrational”. The artist's retroactive claiming of Gaudí as a Surrealist is seen as a key moment in the reappraisal of the architect's work in the 1930s.
- Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, "Door handle for Casa Milà ('La Pedrera'), model 1", museunacional.cat, retrieved May 27, 2022.
- See: Daniel Giralt-Miracle, “Gaudí: The Art of Architecture”, in William H Robinson (ed), Barcelona and modernity : Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí (Cleveland Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2006), 185-194.
- Many of the pieces remain available to purchase through contemporary design companies including BD Barcelona Design and izé. See: "door knobs, gaudí, by antoni gaudí", bdbarcelona.com, retrieved May 27, 2022; and "Antoni Gaudí", ize.info, retrieved May 27, 2022.
- See: Juan José Lahuerta, Antoni Gaudí : Ornament, fire and ashes (Barcelona: Tenov Books, 2016), 117.
- Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Gaudí (New York: Museum of Modern Art (Catalogue of an exhibition held from Dec. 18, 1957 to Feb. 23, 1958), 1957), 10-11.
- Salvador Dalí, "De la beauté terrifiante et comestible de l'architecture Modern' Style", Minotaure, no. 3-4 (Paris, 1933), 69-76. Reproduced and partially translated into English in: Juan José Lahuerta (ed.), Gaudí universe (Barcelona: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, 2002), 167-171.
- See: James Johnson Sweeney, Antoni Gaudí (New York: Praeger, 1970), 7.