What is the unlikely connection between an apartment block in Barcelona, Spain and Star Wars, one of the most successful film franchises in history?
Most people have heard of Antoni Gaudi, the Catalonian architect responsible for the design of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Work on this incredible Gothic and Art Nouveau church began in 1882 and continues to this day. It is hoped that it will be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death. Sometimes known as “The Cathedral of the Poor”, it remains his most famous work.
Gaudi designed many other buildings and one of the most well-known is the last private residence he designed. “Casa Mila” sits on the corner of Carrer de Provenca and Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona’s most fashionable shopping district and was completed in 1910.
These days, it is better known by its less than complimentary nickname, “La Pedrera” (The Open Quarry) due to its rough external appearance. Gaudi drew his design inspiration from nature and stated that there were no straight lines in nature.
Casa Mila was a controversial and much-criticised building that was not welcomed by residents of Passeig de Gracia at the time it was built. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Barcelona.
Star Wars fans who have made it this far, I’ve not forgotten you!
I’m about to tell you something that very few of your fellow Star Wars fans will know about, so kudos for you awaits…
Let’s have another look at the white vents in the photograph at the top of the page. Is there something vaguely familiar about them?
In the 1970s, the American filmmaker George Lucas travelled to Barcelona. Like many tourists before and since, he paid a visit to Casa Mila and went to the rooftop of the building.
Here he saw these strange, almost menacing vents and they gave him the inspiration for the design of the helmets of the Galactic Stormtroopers in his forthcoming film, “Star Wars.”
The Galactic Stormtroopers’ helmets and body armour are amongst the most recognisable costumes in the history of cinema. They represent an unemotional force of terror. Or evil personified.
Quite what the deeply religious Antoni Gaudi would have made of this, I really don’t know. But since the whole Star Wars franchise is essentially a Good v Evil story, where Good ultimately triumphs, I think he would be pleased.
During a recent visit to Barcelona, we booked ourselves on a night time tour of the building, which culminates in a visit to the roof of Casa Mila. If you plan on doing the same, my advice is to use the elevator, rather than the stairs; the roof is seven floors up. The pain we go through for our readers!
If you thought the main part of the building was strange, what you see on the roof is stranger still.
Here, you will find a collection of skylights and staircase exits, chimneys, vents and water tanks, all in Gaudi’s unique, organic, style. There is an excellent “son et lumiere” each night, which shows these unusual features off at their best.
First and third photos taken with an Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Hand held at night. Minimal processing done in the phone via the free Adobe Photoshop Express app. Second photo was taken with a Sony RX10 MkII with a 24mm-200mm lens set at 24mm. Exposure 1/800 second at f7.1. ISO 640.