Thursday, 24 January 2013

Gaudi's Barcelona: Casa Battlo

During my travels early last year I spent a few days in Barcelona, and was blown away by the elegance of some of the many buildings designed by Spain's icon of Modernisme architecture, Antoni Gaudi. The flowing organic lines and colourful three-dimensional mosaics of Gaudi's unique architectural style pepper the Barcelona cityscape, every Gaudi looking unmistakably Gaudi.

Although the word gaudy does not in fact originate from Gaudi, his highly decorated, Baroque-esque style often fits that description, particularly looking at many of the decorative facades. The exterior of Casa Battlo (pronounced Baiyo, below) resembles a giant fossil, with its bone-like columns and soft corners. 

Its roof is tiled to resemble a dragon's back, and a rooftop patio features a bulbous, human-scale four-armed cross decorated in mosaic tiles representing the holy trinity. The building was commissioned as a home for Josep Battlo i Casanovas in 1904, and evidently Gaudi quit the project when Battlo's wife refused him total creative freedom to erect a statue of the virgin Mary on the roof. 

Dragon spine and four-armed cross atop Casa Battlo

However gaudy and overdecorated the exteriors may appear, I found the interior architecture stunning its simplicity and elegance. It's difficult to find a straight line inside or outside Casa Battlo, but inside the soft curves and warm, muted tones flow gracefully from one room to the next, blurring the transition from window to wall, ceiling to light fixture, furniture to open space.

 fireplace at Casa Battlo

interior window leading to another room

The highest of five floors is designed as the interior of the dragon who occupies the roof

Twin chairs designed by Gaudi for Casa Battlo

Gaudi designed much of the furniture for his buildings as well, and Casa Battlo's plans included hexagonal floor tiles impressed with fossil-like patterns in keeping with the underwater feeling of the exterior. The tiles were never used here, but were eventually installed in a different project (the Casa Mila) and later to pave the footpath of the nearby Passeig de Gracia.

Gaudi's marine-inspired hexagonal tiles paving the Passeig de Gracia 

Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece is La Sagrada Familia, The Holy Family, the interior of which rivals the beauty and aura of reverence of cathedrals of a different age, when religious architecture was the height of architectural innovation and grandeur. That's going to require another post... 


  1. We marvelled at his ability to create outside the box, when we visited in 2010. Your photos have captured his quirky creativity beautifully. I loved the elevator and the ornate pattern in the tile work and the colour of the glazes. Even the wire fence in the back yard was wonderful. Thanks for your comment on a wonderful piece of Barcelona, a city we fell in love with.

    1. Yes, the tiles that slowly gradated from light to dark blue outside the elevator were incredible! A lot of the character of the city is built on the influence of so many Gaudi buildings, I thought. Between Gaudi and the hot chocolate, I fell in love with Barcelona, too!

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