Barcelona By Sights – Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

An earlier project by Gaudi, Casa Batlló is  completed in 1906. Even though it’s just a few blocks down the street from Casa Mila, somehow I missed this building during my previous visit to Barcelona, but that just meant I got the delight of experiencing this building for the first time. Casa Batlló was a renovation project for Gaudi, which included re-building the main street-facing façade. It’s a bold, exuberant composition of natural organic forms, symbolism, and brilliant color, with a generous and playful use of mosaic glass and ceramics. The top of the façade is famously known as the dragon’s back because the curving shape looks like a spine and the colored masonry tiles are its iridescent scales.

The Batlló family had a private residence entered through the ground floor entrance hall. The level of detail on the interior reflects the detail on the exterior; this was not merely a pretty shell. Notable again is the abundant natural light that comes in through the huge openings on the exterior wall where the family could watch the hustle and bustle below on the Passeig de Gràcia. But it’s the careful design and follow-through of every detail that brings this building to life. The patterns in the ceilings, the design of the doors, the light fixtures and stair railings; each piece tells a part of a story about the natural world, and in turn connects us closer to it.

One of Casa Batlló's amazing ceilings

One of Casa Batlló’s amazing ceilings

The upper floors of the house are connected with a common stair surrounding a light well topped with a skylight bringing the Mediterranean sunshine down into the center of the building. There are apartments on each floor now used as offices. The attic space or loft, originally used as a service area for laundry and storage, utilizes a series of catenary arches similar to Casa Mila but with an entirely different effect. Here, the sixty arches and their connecting walls are whitewashed and with the light streaming in through the windows and it feels like you’re in a hilltop Mediterranean village. At the same time, the series of white arches resembles a rib cage and are often referred to as the rib cage of the dragon on the roof.

Two outdoor spaces are an important part of the design: the private courtyard off the dining room of the Batlló residence, and the common use roof-top. Both spaces continue the themes of the building with their playful-yet-functional organic forms, symbolism from nature, and a riotous use of color. The main roof terrace allows the visitor to get closer to the dragon’s back as well as view the four chimneys, which, as expected from Gaudi, are not just artful but functional.

Casa Batlló was a spectacular surprise for me and a delight. The level of detail inside and out, the shimmering color, the movement, the fantastical references to animals and the sea; all in a space that is truly functional and modern with open, sun-filled rooms that come together to make a magical and otherworldly progression of spaces.

(Click on a pic to embiggen and view the full gallery.)
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