The magic of Casa Batlló in Barcelona

Published on December 14, 2019 by Catalan Holidays

At number 43 on the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona is Casa Batlló, the Batlló House, also known as the house of masks, the house of bones, the yawning house and the dragon house. This architectural work is one of the icons of Modernist Barcelona. It also symbolises the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi’s, stage of maximum constructive maturity.

The most famous 20th century block

The house was built in 1877 by Emili Sala Cortés. During this period, great works by famous architects were built on this block in the Eixample neighbourhood, turning it into an area with all kinds of viewpoints. It was criticised both positively and negatively, leading to the nickname, “the block of discord”.

A strong rivalry then arose between the architects who put together the buildings on that block, especially because of their facades. Of course, Gaudi could not miss out. In fact, he was the last one to arrive. He was contracted by the textile businessman, Josep Batlló, to transform and breathe life into the building.

Between 1904 and 1906, Gaudi dedicated himself to remodelling the building, changing its façade and interior. This transformation was so radical that Casa Batlló was immediately placed among the most representative works of the new Barcelona. As with many of his works, in this one the architect also combined the best of art and functionality, magically combining design and architecture.

In this moment, during the first decade of the 20th century, the architect was going through his most naturalist stage, where he was inspired by organic forms in nature. Both Gaudi’s regulated geometry as well as his baroque ornamental silhouettes and volumes with great structural richness stand out from every corner of Casa Batlló.

Casa Batlló’s façade and roof

Casa Batlló’s façade is perhaps one of the most well-known parts of the building in the whole world. Its original composition stands out because of its fantasy and colour. Its vertical undulations have been compared to “Water Lilies” by the painter, Claude Monet. It even symbolises elements of a carnival because of the similarity that its roof moulding has to a jester’s hat; the balcony railings that evoke the shape of masks and the coating of mosaic tiling which resembles confetti.

However, it has an even clearer reference, that of the legend of Saint George. The roof can be compared to the shape of a dragon’s back, the balcony to the princess as if she were an open flower, the cross to the knight’s lance, and the bones can be from the people who were devoured by the dragon.

The façade, as happens with many of Gaudi’s architectural works, is full of feature and structural discoveries, such as the ceramic mosaic with organic and geometric shapes on the rear façade, or the bespoke windows and the ceramic coating of the patio of lights.

By Fred Romero, Casa Batlló, Barcelona Flickr

Underwater interior with a hint of dragon

The inside of the building must not be overlooked. Its first floor holds the Batlló family’s original home. The living room particularly stands out, with a bright space and beautiful views of the main street.

It is worth mentioning the special layout of its ceilings, the play of the light and the rippling walls, inspired by the animal kingdom and the bottom of the sea. As well as the skylights which remind us of a turtle’s shell, or the handrail which looks like the spine of an animal.

The rest of the floors are usually rented out, and the last floor on level five was a space designed for service, with storage space and laundry rooms. This floor, designed as an attic reflected in a simple and open space, its maximum purity through the succession of sixty parabolic arches, similar to a dragon’s insides.

The architect also transformed the front door of the building, the area of the stairs and the lift. He created a patio of lights with blue tiles, creating a very interesting play of lights that is reminiscent of the depths of the sea, like on the fifth floor.

The interior of this great architectural work has been compared to the Jules Verne work, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”.

By Cristina Valencia, Casa Batlló, Barcelona Flickr

The terrace and chimneys

The terrace is reached by spiral staircases, while the chimneys adorned with glazed, colourful mosaic tiles welcome visitors. They measure 6.10 metres in height and are covered in fragments of glass and mosaic tile with floral and polychrome drawings. They are arranged in four groups and their design makes the air billow. Furthermore, Casa Milá (1910) and Güell Palace (1888) can be appreciated from in between them.

The rectangular roof terrace was built across the arches of the attic. In the highest part of the façade are the water tanks, which simulate the scaly and undulating spine of a dragon.

On the other side, the previously mentioned roof moulding, also externally simulates the dragon’s scales, but if it is seen from inside, it resembles a crab shell. The colours graduate from white to a quite intense shade of orange.

By Jorge Luis Zapico, Casa Batlló, Barcelona Flickr

National and global awards

In reality, its recognition came late. Even the Town Hall prevented it winning the annual artistic building competition prize twice. It was not until 1962 that Casa Batlló received the recognition and justice it deserved. In that year, it was included in Barcelona’s City Council Heritage Catalogue.

It was in 1969 when it was declared an Historic Artistic Monument, a title that is today known as Place of Cultural Interest. In 2005, it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site catalogue, and in 2006 it was granted the Best in Heritage Prize by Europa Nostra Awards.

Casa Batlló is an unmissable part of the architectural works of Catalan Modernism which can be enjoyed in the city of Barcelona. A building with a life of its own that offers visitors a constant dialogue between colour, light and life.

Where to stay near Barcelona

Our recommendations are coastal accommodation near to the city of Barcelona. There are areas on the Catalan coast that allow you to be between the sea and the mountains at the same time as being near to the city of Barcelona.

Holiday homes on the Barcelona coast
Holiday homes on the Costa Dorada
Holiday homes on the Costa Bravaproperties

On the other hand, have you thought of holiday rentals of houses with private pools y holiday rentals of houses that accept dogs or other pets. Through this link you have all our holiday homes in Catalonia.

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