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Casa Batlló - Barcelona | by Jaume CP BCN
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Casa Batlló - Barcelona

Casa Batlló is a renowned building located in the heart of Barcelona and is one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces. Casa Batlló is a remodel of a previously built house. It was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí and has been refurbished several times after that. Casa Batlló evokes the creativity and playfulness of Gaudí’s work through the incracite facades and creative floors. Gaudí's assistants Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, Josep Canaleta y Joan Rubió also contributed to the renovation project.

 

The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality. It was originally designed for a middle-class family and situated in a prosperous district of Barcelona.

 

The building looks very remarkable — like everything Gaudí designed, only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense. The ground floor, in particular, is rather astonishing with tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work.

 

It seems that the goal of the designer was to avoid straight lines completely. Much of the façade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles (trencadís) that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues. The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the lance of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia, Gaudí's home), which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.

 

The building that is now Casa Batlló was built in 1877 by Emilio Salas Cortes one of Gaudí’s teachers. It was a classical building with a basement, a ground floor, four other floors and a garden in the back. The house was bought by Josep Batllo in 1900. The design of the house made the home undesirable to buyers but the Batlló family decided to buy the place due to its centralized location. It is located in the middle of Passeig de Gracia, which in the early 20th century was known as a very prestigious and fashionable area. It was an area where the prestigious family could draw attention to themselves.

 

In 1904 Josep Batlló hired Gaudí to design his home; at first his plans were to tear down the building and construct a completely new house. Gaudí convinced Josep that a renovation was sufficient and was also able to submit the planning application the same year. The building was completed and refurbished in 1906. He completely changed the main apartment which became the residence for the Batlló family. He expanded the central well in order to supply light to the whole building and also added new floors. In the same year the Barcelona City Council selected the house as a candidate for that year’s best building award. The award was given to another architect that year despite Gaudí’s design.

 

Josep Batlló died in 1934 and the house was kept in order by the wife until her death in 1940 . After the death of the two parents the house was kept and managed by the children until 1954. In 1954 an insurance company named Seguros Iberia acquired Casa Batlló and set up offices there. In 1970, the first refurbishment occurred mainly in several of the interior rooms of the house. In 1983, the exterior balconies were restored to their original color and a year later the exterior façade was illuminated in the ceremony of La Mercè.

 

The facade has three distinct sections which are harmoniously integrated. The top displays a trim[disambiguation needed] with ceramic pieces that has attracted multiple interpretations. The central part, which reaches the last floor, is a multicolored section with protruding balconies. The lower ground floor with the main floor and two first-floor galleries are contained in a structure of Montjuïc sandstone with undulating lines.

 

The top of the building is a crown, like a huge gable, which is at the same level as the roof and helps to conceal the room where there used to be water tanks. This room is currently empty. The roof's arched profile recalls the spine of a dragon with ceramic tiles for scales, and a small triangular window towards the right of the structure simulates the eye. Legend has it that it was once possible to see the Sagrada Familia through this window, which was being built simultaneously. The view of the Sagrada Familia is now blocked from this vantage point by newer buildings. The tiles were given a metallic sheen to simulate the varying scales of the monster, with the color grading from green on the right side, where the head begins, to deep blue and violet in the center, to red and pink on the left side of the building.

 

One of the highlights of the facade is a tower topped with a cross of four arms oriented to the cardinal directions. It is a bulbous, root-like structure that evokes plant life. There is a second bulb-shaped structure similarly reminiscent of a thalamus flower, which is represented by a cross with arms that are actually buds announcing the next flowering. The tower is decorated with monograms of Jesus (JHS), Maria (M with the ducal crown) and Joseph (JHP), made of ceramic pieces that stand out golden on the green background that covers the facade. These symbols show the deep religiosity of Gaudi, who was inspired by the contemporaneous construction of his basilica to choose the theme of the holy family. The bulb was broken when it was delivered, perhaps during transportation. Although the manufacturer committed to re-do the broken parts, Gaudí liked the aesthetic of the broken masonry and asked that the pieces be stuck to the main structure with lime mortar and held in with a brass ring. The central part of the facade evokes the surface of a lake with water lilies, reminiscent of Monet's Nymphéas, with gentle ripples and reflections caused by the glass and ceramic mosaic. It is a great undulating surface covered with plaster fragments of colored glass discs combined with 330 rounds of polychrome pottery. The discs were designed by Gaudí and Jujol between tests during their stay in Majorca, while working on the restoration of the Cathedral of Palma.

 

Finally, above the central part of the facade is a smaller balcony, also iron, with a different exterior aesthetic, closer to a local type of lily. Two iron arms were installed here to support a pulley to raise and lower furniture.

 

The facade of the main floor, made entirely in sandstone, and is supported by two columns. The design is complemented by joinery windows set with multicolored stained glass. In front of the large windows, as if they were pillars that support the complex stone structure, there are six fine columns that seem to simulate the bones of a limb, with an apparent central articulation; in fact, this is a floral decoration. The rounded shapes of the gaps and the lip-like edges carved into the stone surrounding them create a semblance of a fully open mouth, for which the Casa Batlló has been nicknamed the "house of yawns." The structure repeats on the first floor and in the design of two windows at the ends forming galleries, but on the large central window there are two balconies as described above.

 

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Taken on March 30, 2013