Breaking the mould: Gaudi’s door handle designs are as unorthodox as his architecture

Gaudi may be most associated with Catalan intricate architecture but his door handle designs also push the envelope

Antoni Gaudi’s modernist buildings draw thousands of tourists to Barcelona every year. But his individualised design style also extends inside the buildings to door hardware. 

Door handle for Casa Milà (‘La Pedrera’), model 1 is a brass fixture designed by 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 mould 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, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. 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 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 modelled in some clay-like substance…”.

Today exact reproductions in both form and material of eight original metalwork fittings designed by Antoni Gaudí for various of his works of architecture are available. Designed by Barcelona Design with the architect David Ferrer, they are solid
cast brass with polished finish.
See bdbarcelona.com/collections/art-editions/gaudi-door-knobs

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