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Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló (58)

The Casa Batlló is situated at number 43 Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, in the “block of discord” so named for the diversity of styles of the different building there. In fact, in this block there are several architectural jewels - among them the Casa Amatller, Casa Lleó Morera and, of course, the Casa Batlló.

Josep Batlló i Casanovas commissioned Antoni Gaudí to renovate the building in 1875. The work was carried out between 1904 and 1907 and has to be one of the most poetic and creative works by the Catalan architect. Once it was finished, when asked what he wanted to achieve with the Casa Batlló, Gaudi replied “a view of paradise”. 

The changes made to the old building by Gaudí were radical: he added a gallery, balconies, an attic and two additional floors, as well as all the colourful ceramic decoration. The project came under question by the authorities as it was outside the limits established by the municipal by-laws. 

All the element of classic modernism are present in this work: coloured pieces of ceramic made into mosaics, wrought iron in the balconies and interior decoration and the stained glass seeking play between the light and colours, generating new spaces.  

On the outside, Antoni Gaudí made one of the most original façades in the city, also considered one the most brilliant in the world. It is curved, covered with fragments of different coloured broken glass and ceramic tiles giving it its iridescent appearance, and it means that it is not just worth seeing during the daytime but also at night, when we recommend you stroll along  to it from Passeig de Gràcia or Rambla Catalunya . The distribution of the different fragments was personally directed by Gaudí who stood in the road and directed the works as if he were painting a giant painting. 

The balconies look like parts of skulls, with the openings as the eyes and nose. Other people think they look like masks. The lower part of the building was replaced by wave-like shapes cut in stone which is perfectly integrated with the balconies and contains columns with floral motifs. 

To cover the water deposits, Gaudí designed a very steep roof covered in what look like fishes scales made of ceramic. Inside there is a large bare brick attic with great load bearing arches. The roof has a small tower topped with a 4 pointed cross with the organic shapes so typical of Gaudí on each. For many of the people of Barcelona, it is the arched back of the dragon stabbed by the cross of Saint George, Catalonia’s patron. It should be remembered that modernism recovered many of the medieval ideas, where the dragon is not just seen as a monster but also as a representation of strength, passions and wisdom. 

Inside the house, the largest, first floor is where Sr Batlló would have lived with his family. The other floors were divided into two duplex apartments for rent. All the spaces were redistributed to obtain better ventilation and more natural light. For example, the interior well is covered with increasingly lighter ceramics as you go down to achieve the greatest and most natural illumination possible. There are also numerous decorative elements which continue to surprise visitors. 

In the living room of the family’s apartment there are several works of art, because there was a small altar there with a door which contained an image of the Holy Family by Josep Llimona, Christ on the Cross by Carles Mani, candelabras by Josep María Jujol and an illustrated ? by Joan Rubio.  If you look up, the ceiling is decorated with a spiral relief. For the dining room Gaudí designed several pieces of furniture such as the table, the chairs and a bench, which can be seen today in the house-Museum at Parc Güell. In another room there is a decorative jewel by Gaudí: a fireplace built into the wall and covered in ceramics. 

The staircase leading to the first floor where the owner’s family lived is made of oak and under the banister are pieces in the shape of vertebrae which follow the steps up like a skirting board. The door handles, windows, chairs...every single modernist detail inside is minutely worked and their sinuous curves arranged in such a way that we feel we are in a dream. 

And it is very difficult to find a single straight line in the house. So much so, the saying goes, that the Señora Batlló was worried because with the new design there would not be space for her daughter’s grand piano, to which Gaudí recommended that she sell the piano and take up the violin.  

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