Gaudi In The Details

I had always thought Antoni Gaudi’s buildings were….well gaudy! My minimalist aesthetics were offended by all that ornamentation, and I never really paid much attention to his work. But as soon as I stepped inside this iconic building in Barcelona, I knew I had been so mistaken…..about Gaudi and about modernist architecture! One of the trio of modernist buildings on Passeig De Gracia, comprising the “Manzana de la Discordia”, the Casa Batllo is radical, absurd, functional and exceptionally beautiful, all at the same time!

Remodeled from an existing structure for the textile magnate Joseph Batllo between 1904-1906, this is one of Gaudi’s emblematic works. It served as a luxury apartment complex and the Batllo family occupied the Noble floor with its large living spaces and private terrace, up until the mid 50’s. It was deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005. Today – if you have the moolah – you could pretend you are a 19th century business tycoon for an evening, and celebrate a special occasion, right on the ‘Noble’ floor of this very special building!

Between 1898 and 1906 three adjacent houses were built on one block on the boulevard ‘Passeig de Gracia’ by some of the most important modernist architects: Casa Lléo Morera (designed by Domènech i Montaner [behind wraps), Casa Amatller (designed by Puig i Cadafalch) and Gaudí’s Casa Batlló. The term “Manzana de la Discordia” is a play on the word ‘Manzana’ which means both ‘Block’ and ‘Apple”!
The façade of the Casa Batlló is covered with colourful Trencadis (mosaic) in shades of orange to blue green! Some fantastic claims suggest that the facade represents the sea and the reptilian roof – St. George (the patron saint of Catalonia) and the slaying of the dragon!
Windows are smaller on higher floore to ensure uniform, natural lighting at all times!
The skeleton like balcony!

The compass and T Square are an architects tools of trade (even if CAD has rendered them virtually obsolete today) and Gaudi appears to have thrown them out the window, when he designed this house! From the Trencadis (broken ceramic mosaic) covered facade to the fairy tale interior, there is nary a straight line or corner in sight!  For he argued that these shapes do not occur in nature and nature was his primary muse!

Art Deco and Art Nouveau intermingle with impunity here! Bizarre decorative elements proudly proclaim that he is no slave to popular sentiment. But somehow, amazingly, they all come together! And beautifully! Mainly because of his attention to proportion and detail. To the innovative use of shape, colour and light….techniques that have since been borrowed by many contemporary architects.

“This is an architectural smile, an outpouring of the 
composite pleasure of a man who was in full command 
of his own very personal style.” 
~ Professor Juan Bassegoda Nonell*

Nuff said. Check out these images and let me know what you think!

Professor Juan Bassegoda Nonell was the director of the Royal Gaudi Chair at the School of Architecture within the Polytechnical University of Catalonia