Casa Batlló, poetry turned into architecture
Casa Batlló is more than just a house it is an amazing work of art in the most magnificent avenue in Barcelona, Passeig de Gràcia or Paseo de Gracia.
Paseo de Gracia has been Barcelona’s backbone since the1860s when some of the most prominent families in the city commissioned the construction of buildings and houses in this impressive avenue.
The building we are talking about, at Passeig de Gràcia 43, was originally built by Emilio Sala Cortés (one of Gaudi’s architecture professors) in 1877. In 1903 it was acquired by Mr. Josep Batlló Casanovas a prominent businessman who owned several factories in the city. Mr. Batlló wanted to knock down the old building and build something new and more modern for his family and he commissioned this undertaking to Antoni Gaudí.
Josep Batlló granted full creative freedom to Gaudi who convinced the owner to conduct a complete and thorough renovation of the old building instead of demolishing it.
Between 1904 and 1906, Gaudi worked in the renovation of the entire building. He redistributed the internal walls, incorporated the Art nouveau decorative accents, and transformed the front of the building into the striking façade we see today. The final structure became a monumental work of art and Gaudi’s most poetic and inspired composition.
If you are not familiar with Casa Batlló, the work of Antoni Gaudi, or the movement known as Catalan Modernisme, you might ask what is so special about this house?
Well, by now you have seen some or all of the images in this post, and if you are still reading this, you probably understand what I’m talking about.
Because of its unique façade, Casa Batllo is also known as the House of Bones, the House of Yawns and the House of the Dragon. In fact, there are multiple interpretations of what was in Gaudi’s mind when he designed the building’s exterior. But nobody can doubt that nature was his main inspiration. After all, he used to say “there are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners”.
His use of animal shapes, vine-like curves, hints of bone, and lustrous colored bits of glass and glazed ceramic, created a masterpiece that astonishes every person who passes by or stands in front of it.
On the first three floors (ground, noble and first), the façade incorporates slender stone columns in the shape of bones decorated with modernist floral elements.
The mask-shaped balcony railings of the upper floors are made from a single piece of cast iron and attached by two anchor points, allowing them to stick out.
On the Noble Floor, Gaudí included a huge gallery (to see and be seen), which protrudes several meters over Paseo de Gracia. He also added large oval-shaped windows to that floor.
The Interior of Casa Batlló
The inside of Casa Batlló is a marvel of design as well and Gaudí, was involved in each and every aspect: from design to color, shape, space and light. He collaborated with the best artisans of the time, working with wrought iron, wood, stained glass, ceramic tiles and stone ornaments, among others. The winding and twisting exhibited in the decorative features of doors, frames, peepholes, moldings and screens are all interpretations of the natural forms that inspired Gaudí’s Art nouveau style.
Each and every detail you see when you walk through the house is absolutely amazing. But the most surprising thing is that despite the beauty and exuberance incorporated into the building, Gaudi made sure to keep and enhance the house’s functionality in every corner, from the entrance hall to the roof terrace.
The Noble Floor
The Noble Floor is at the heart of the house, with a unique hall that represents the maximum expression of modernism, explaining how the bourgeoisie of the time lived.
The first room we reach on this floor is Mr Batlló’s study which has an interesting mushroom- shaped fireplace. This leads to the house’s main living room, where a large picture window takes centre stage, forming a gallery onto Paseo de Gracia. Among other elements, the huge oak doors are particularly noteworthy, with organic shapes into which Gaudí incorporated stained glass panes and a wavy ceiling that evokes the strength of the sea.
❝ On the Noble Floor, Gaudí included a huge gallery (to see and be seen), which protrudes several meters over Paseo de Gracia.❞
The Patio of Lights
The patio of lights is a fundamental part of the house as it distributes the air and light that enters through the main skylight. Gaudí extended the original patio to ensure that natural light would reach all the rooms of the house. He also decorated it with tiles of different blue tones (with a more intense blue color in the upper part and lighter tiles at the bottom) to ensure a uniform distribution of the light. Following this same logic, the upper windows are smaller and they become bigger as we descend, allowing more light to enter.
The loft is a unique space and delightfully combines aesthetics and functionality. It was a service area for the tenants of the building, house laundry rooms, and storage areas among other things. It is characterized by the simplicity of its shapes, its Mediterranean influence through the use of the color white, and it’s all-pervading light. It features a series of 60 catenary arches, creating a space that for some people evoke the ribcage of an animal.
The Roof Terrace
The roof terrace is dominated by what is popularly known as the dragon’s back, that characterizes the façade and is represented with different colored tiles.
However, the main focal point of the roof terrace are the four polychrome chimney stacks, designed to prevent backdraughts of Gaudi’s state-of-the-art use of central heating (extremely rare in Barcelona at that time). Once again, beauty and functionality were brought together at the most beautiful and emblematic house of Catalan modernisme.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take wide-angle pictures of the flabbergasting interiors of the house. Fighting with literally hundreds of people that visited the house that day proved to be one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had so far. But who can blame them Casa Batlló is indeed an enchanting place where every corner has its own fairytale.
About Antoni Gaudí
For many architecture lovers, Gaudí’s name is associated with the glorious but unfinished Church of La Sagrada Familia (Expiatory Church of the Holy Family), but Antoni Gaudí was more than that, he was one of the founders of the Catalan Modernisme.
It is estimated that during his lifetime, Gaudí produced 90 projects, seven of which, including Casa Batlló, were declared World Heritage by UNESCO.
Gaudí was born on June 25, 1825 in Reus, the Catalonian province of Tarragona. He moved to Barcelona at the age of 21 to study Architecture. Through different apprenticeships he worked with some of the most important builders and architects of his time. Soon he developed his own style, composing his works with juxtapositions of geometric masses and animating the surfaces with patterned brick or stone, bright ceramic tiles and floral or reptilian metalwork.
Gaudí died while still working on the Sagrada Familia on June 10, 1926, in Barcelona, Spain. He was struck by a trolley car in Barcelona and died a few days later two weeks shy of his 74th birthday. The extraordinary structure which remained unfinished at his death in 1926, is still being built and has a final completion target date of 2026, to mark the 100th anniversary of his passing.
If you want to learn more about the Catalan Modernisme movement, please visit this post