I’m sitting in a restaurant along Carrer de Pau Claris street in Barcelona restaurant reminiscing about my experience this morning at CASA MILA “LE PEDRERA”. From the courtyard to the terrace to actually seeing how people lived there over a 100 years ago. I guess I should stop there and let you read my experience yourself, if you haven’t, in my last post MY ANTONI GAUDI EXPERIENCE (PART 1) so you may understand not only the brilliance that is La Pedrera but that of its master architect Señor Antoni Gaudi.
Now that my feet are all rested and my stomach is full I pay my bill and head on back to Passeig de Gràcia avenue which a century ago the most prestigious bourgeois families settled. Passing every high end brand store you can think of, from Gucci to Prada, I guess nothing much has changed.
My destination this fine afternoon is the astounding residential home designed by Gaudi for Josep Batlló, Casa Batllo.
Josep Batlló acquired the original sombre structure in 1903 and commissioned Gaudí to transform into what would be one of his most original works. Although the building with it seven floors (basement, ground floor, first floor, four more floors with apartments and attic) is much smaller than La Pedrera, being a narrow building sandwiched between other buildings along the street, it still has as much of a presence due to its organic Gaudi-like structure and vibrant colours and textures.
First thing that hits me when I lay eyes on Casa Batlló, the building he worked on from 1904 to 1907, is how much it looks like a castle right from Atlantis. I was half expecting the little mermaid to come out singing an oscar worthy ballad. As would be expected there is a considerably long queue but with an exterior like this, Casa Batlló is definitely worth queuing for hours if necessary. Standing here gives me the opportunity to study the Mediterranean sea inspired building at a closer viewpoint. When undertaking the refurbishing of the building Gaudi added two new storeys and designing a new undulating skin for the facade using a mosaic of fragments of glass and ceramic discs which from down here looks like a dragon’s back. It’s easy to understand why many, who refer to the building as Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), believe that the outside of Casa Batlló represents the legend of Sant Jordi, the patron saint of Catalonia. They interpret the tower with its four arms as the hilt of his sword cleaving the dragon’s back, the balconies as the skulls of the dragon’s victims, and the stone columns as their bones.
Josep wanted an architect that would design a house that was like no other and stood out as being audacious and creative. Standing here more than a 100 years later its easy to see that he selected the right person for the job.
Surprisingly, the queue has moved faster than I expected. Im not sure if it’s the efficiency of the ticketing staff or I just lost track of time ogling at the buildings exterior. Either way I make my payment, collect my audio tape and get into the building. Speaking of the audio tapes it would be a crime if I didn’t acknowledge how brilliant they are.
Calling it an audioguide is belittling it this brilliant contraption is actually is, a videoguide. This device combines augmented reality and virtual elements to show us how the Batlló family would have lived in the home and best parts that it displays animations that represent Gaudi’s inspiration for certain sections.
True to Gaudi’s organic style the exterior has no straight line in sight and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case with the interior, and at first sight of the Foyer/Entry hall I’m sure of it. From the main communal hall there’s a large door that leads me to the entrance hall on the ground floor. This entry hall was used solely by the Batlló family as it leads to their floor of the building. Without a doubt this hallway evokes the feeling of an undersea grottos due to the turtle shell pattern on the walls and ceiling. Speaking of turtles Gaudi cleverly continued with this theme using skylights that look like their shells.
Walking up the winding staircase to the main/noble floor I can’t take my eyes off the spectacular hardwood bannister that looks like a representation of the coiled backbone of some vast beast. I know I’m allowed to touch it but I just can’t. Seeing that I wouldn’t be allowed to touch a work as spectacular as the Monalisa why would I want to do so to this masterpiece?
The stairway leads me to the noble/main floor, which was built to be the Batllo’s home in the building. This well lit area has large windows providing panoramic views of Passeig de Gràcia that allows the light to flood in. This salon area has three interconnected spaces that include Mr. Batlló’s study, a dining room, and a secluded spot for courting couples, decorated with a mushroom-shaped fireplace.
Hold on a minute!
So this secluded courting area, how exactly did it work?
Was it the area where the young gentlemen coming to court your daughter gets some time with her under your supervision or if you throw a party and two people catch each other’s eyes is that the area they head on over to for courting to commence? Im definitely curious about this so if any of you know how this area worked kindly educate me in the comment section below.
Okay, back to our regular programming….
No word better describes the noble floor than FLUIDITY. From the ocean inspired stained glass with their aqua colours, to the wavelike shapes of the large oak doors but mostly the undulating ceiling that alludes to the power of the sea . You have to agree that when Gaudi had a theme, in this case the Mediterranean sea, he does justice to it.
Watching the videoguide I am able to envision how the rooms would have looked like styled with the furniture that Gaudi personally designed for the family. Remember the furniture pieces I saw this morning on display in the Espai Gaudí exhibition in the attic of La Pedrera (see PART 1) well they were designed for the Batllo’s apartment.
From the dining room I can see access to what seems to be a patio area. Glad to see I’m right I run out excited to see how the back facade matches up with the front. Although it isn’t as spectacular as the rest of the building, I have to admit that it has its charm with the colorful tile work and wavy balconies that are still a work of art in themselves. Plus when I think about it, a more subtle facade allows the patterns created by the tiles and trencadís on the patio’s paving and the large planters to stand out.
Let me head back in now and see if I’ve missed anything on this floor before I head on over to the roof terrace. I’m curious to see if it’ll come close to La Pedrera’s because that one has, hands down, set the bar way up there.
The stairway heading to the terrace winds up passing the other apartment’s interestingly decorative wooden doors. On closer inspection the carved shapes in relief look like bones which ties in to the front facade. I’m also pleasantly surprised to find the same ergonomic door handles as in La Pedrera ( head on over to PART 1 to see what I mean). Another Gaudi touch that I’m in love with is, as the videoguide informed me:
“The doors of each apartment are labelled in a modernist script specially designed by Gaudí for Casa Batlló.”
Take a look for yourself:
As I walk up I get a perfect view of the building well with its breathtaking cobalt blue coloured flat and relief glazed tiles.
Listening to the videoguide I learn that,
“In true Gaudi style he used this decorative feature in a functional way that better distributes light in the space by placing tiles which are darker in color at the top and lighter towards the bottom.”
He actually didn’t stop there and to ensure that each room, with a window facing the well, had adequate amount of light he made the lower windows larger and decrease in size higher up. Studying the well carefully I realise that this variance in window size also works to create an impression of acceleration of perspective when the well is seen from below and avoids the sensation of a deep well when seen from above.
Just when I think Gaudi has exhausted all his creativity, I notice that the glass banister has panels of translucent glass that when I look through gives me the impression of being under water. Come to think of it when I was in the noble floor and looked through the windows facing the building well I got the exact same feeling. By hook or by crook Gaudi wanted you to feel like you were in a mystical underwater world, and boy did he achieve it.
Four flights of stairs later and I’m in the loft. It is considered to be one of the most unusual spaces and I completely agree because I’ve just walked in expecting the same underwater colour tone but surprisingly that’s not the case. Stark white walls, evidently influenced by Mediterranean construction, are what hit me when I walk into what used to be the laundry and storage area for the buildings different apartments. It isn’t so off the theme if you think about it. Scroll back up and look at the ceiling in the noble room. Do you see a similarity?
Just as with La Pedrera, Gaudi designed this area with the same catenary-arch formation consisting of 60 arches that has that animal ribcage look, perhaps that of the dragon which sits above it, on the roof terrace.
Speaking of the roof, let me go and check it out. That was my initial mission when I started up the stairway, right?
Let the record show that there is no comparing Casa Batllo’s terrace with that of La Pedrera because both are undoubtedly brilliant masterpieces that transform what would have been a bland space into a whole other dimension. Similar to the facade Gaudi plays with the dragon theme by placing a dragon back design with tiles in a range of colours and the trencadís technique.
From here I can also get a better view of the small turret with a cross that symbolises the sword of St. George stuck into the dragon that has anagrams of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The terrace is also adorned with four sets of sinuously formed and polychromatic chimneys, reminiscent of bunches of mushrooms, and designed to prevent the smoke blowing back down the chimney. With Gaudi form always follows function, and even though I’ve made note of this from my last post, it doesn’t cease to impress me when I discover another one of his genius designs.
” 330 ceramic discs, in a myriad of different colours, give the main facade its colour and shine. 600 tiles were used to create the appearance of scales that cover the roof. There are 5 different tones of blue tiles used in the building well, inspired by the different shades of the sea”
Whoa! It’s 5pm. Ive been at Casa Batllo for 4 hours and I didn’t even notice. Guess time flies when you’re having the time of your life. But if today has taught me my threshold for being on my feet is 4 hours because they are starting to kill me again. I need to take a seat and get hydrated before I head out to explore the streets of Barcelona for a couple of hours and hopefully I’ll be able to find PLACA REIL, Gaudi’s first work, and no it isn’t a building.
Yes, gaudi designed more than buildings. Can you guess what type of Gaudi’s work I’ve ensured I find before this day ends?
Yes, you read that right, lampposts. Off the famous La Rambla street is the famous Placa Reial square known for its many outdoor venues, restaurants and nightclubs. In this square in 1879 a young Gaudi designed two street lamps on both sides of the central fountain as his first ever project. The ornate posts are in true Gaudi style functional but also aesthetic with their winged helmet and a dragon crowning at their top.
Rightfully named Royal, the beautiful square was designed to be a luxurious space with the aim of extolling the monarchy. The fact that Gaudi’d first project was of this magnitude is testament to the master architect and designer he was to become.
Eventhough the luxurious appearance of the square has been somewhat toned down by a more bohemian atmosphere Gaudi’s posts still fit in perfectly especially in a city like Barcelona where the old and new jell perfectly together. Case in point La Pedrera and Casa Batllo in their current surroundings.
So what do you think of Gaudi’s works that I’ve had a look at today? Do you have a favourite between La Pedrera (in PART 1) and Casa Batllo, and if so why? Leave a COMMENT BELOW because I’d love to know.
Seeing that I wasn’t able to visit La Sagrada Familia this morning I’ll have to check online when there’s a time slot available in the next three days I’m around. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE BELOW to check out my experience with what is Gaudi’s unfinished work and the most visited monuments in Spain,La Sagrada Familia.
Till then don’t forget to Be inspired….Be you!