The colour and fantasy of Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí captivates passers-by on Passeig de Gràcia. Standing halfway up this elegant boulevard and in a strongly contrasting style to the neighbouring houses, the Casa Amatller and Casa Lleó Morera, Gaudí‘s building reveals the splendour of an architect who was able to work on this project with total creative freedom.

Casa Balló by Gaudi in Passeig de Gracia.
Casa Batlló by Gaudí in Passeig de Gràcia.

Originally, the building was built in 1877 by Emilio Sala Cortés (one of Gaudí’s architecture professors), when there was still no electric light in Barcelona. Josep Batlló i Casanovas a textile industrialist who owned several factories in Barcelona and a prominent businessman, purchased it in 1903 and a year later, in 1904, hired Antoni Gaudí, already very famous, to remodel it.

The architect undertook a radical refurbishment of a building to create one of his boldest works.

Gaudí completely changed the facade, redistributing the internal partitioning, expanding the interior courtyard and transforming the inside into a true work of art. A simple glance gives rise to myriad interpretations. The discs of multicoloured glazed-ceramics and broken shards of stained glass, placed with precision, depict flowers and water lilies and play with the reflections of the sunlight. This vast impressionist painting is often interpreted as the surface of the rolling sea in the heart of Passeig de Gràcia.

Gaudí‘s imaginative efforts were key to the development of the project, as was the decorative work of the artisans who collaborated with him between 1904 and 1906, like Josep Maria Jujol.

A fully functional home

At the same time, Gaudí’s main aim was always functionality, much more characteristic of modern times than of the past, so it is worth noting the attention he paid to the lighting and the ventilation. He introduced a large interior courtyard that the service rooms looked out onto, while the salons and bedrooms were on the side of the facade.

Casa Balló by Gaudi and the Block of Discord.
The “block of discord” after Casa Batlló was finished. Ancient Postcard.

On the ground, noble and first floors, the facade incorporates slender stone columns in the shape of bones, decorated with characteristically modernist floral elements. A long sandstone balcony allows us to look inside the elegant mezzanine, while the other floors have balconies in the shape of masks. They are made from a single piece of cast iron and attached by two anchor points, meaning that a part of them is protruding.

The slender stone columns in the shape of bones has caused Casa Batlló to be popularly known as “house of bones”.

An artistic legacy for posterity

The building is crowned with a spectacular roof composed of large scales, which resemble an animal’s back. The upper part is formed by large spherical components, with colours that change from one end to the other. A scaly ceramic skin and turret crowned by a four-armed cross remind us of the legend of Saint George.

Inside the Casa Batlló, you can visit the mezzanine, see the ceramic skylight, the double attic space with its sequence of catenary arches, and the rooftop with its colourful mosaiced chimneys. An explosion of creative freedom where Gaudí spared no effort in creating a functional and modern house.

By applying his naturalistic ideas, with undulating and organic shapes, creating a new facade totally clad in stone and glass and inspired by coral, he gave the building a completely new and original appearance.

The dragon’s back

Casa Batlló represents the artistic splendour of this unique architect. Its undulating roof, which reminds you of a dragon’s back, is one of the icons of Barcelona Modernisme. Even today Casa Batlló is seen as an original and daring work, something that gives it incalculable value and led to it being declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2005.

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