Gaudi - Professional work - 09 Casa Batlló
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Casa Batlló (1904-1906)
Casa Batlló is one of the two great buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí on Passeig de Gràcia ‘the golden mile of Barcelona’, the other being La Pedrera.
Most people know of this house from its spectacular exterior, but it is not only the exterior that is spectacular – its interior must be seen by anyone who wants to know the essential Gaudí. The inner courtyards are a perfect example of the dominion that Gaudí had over light and seem to take you to the depths of the sea.
This handling of light and colour, the details which he used for the ventilation systems, the use of different materials (glass, wood, iron, etc.), make this work one of the most important buildings of Gaudí and of Barcelona.
Although it was a work which caused great controversy with the municipal authorities of the time and was criticised by the inhabitants of Barcelona themselves, it is now classed as a Cultural Item of National Interest and World Heritage by UNESCO.
Among Gaudí's most striking works, the Casa Batlló was commissioned by Josep Batlló i Casanovas, a wealthy industrialist, and was intended to be his upmarket home. Señor Batlló was to live in the lower two floors with his family and the upper floors were to be rented out as apartments.
Josep Batlló commissioned Antoni Gaudí to renovate an existing building erected in 1875 by Emili Sala Cortés. Having said this Batlló gave Gaudí’s complete freedom to design as he saw fit. Gaudí focused on the façade, the main floor, the patio and the roof, and built a fifth floor for the staff. For this project he was assisted by his aides Domènec Sugrañes, Joan Rubió and Josep Canaleta.
Right photo of the old building of Casa Batlló before reburbishing.
Josep Batlló had bought the building in 1900, attracted by its location. It is located right in the middle of Passeig de Gracia, which in the early 20th century was considered a very prestigious and fashionable area.
The Batlló family was very well known in Barcelona for its contribution to the textile industry, Josep Batlló I Casanovas owned factories in the city. Mr. Batlló married Amalia Godo Belaunzaran, from the family that founded the newspaper La Vanguardia. There are hints that Josep was a Mason and wanted an architect that would design a house that both stood out and captured some of the beliefs and principles of the Masons.
The Artigas Gardens [see observation] was another project for a Mason, as such along with Guell it would seem that Gaudi’s clients were in tune with his love of symbolism and more mystic designs.
There was a certain amount of rivalry between members of the Battlo family and both Josep and his wife were open to anything that would ensure their house was different from the rest of the Batlló family, such as Casa Pía, built by Josep Vilaseca.
It is worth adding that the family were very happy with the design and lived in Casa Batlló until the middle of the 1950s. Josep Batlló died in 1934 and the house was occupied by his 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 colour and a year later the exterior façade was illuminated in the ceremony of La Mercè.
In 1993, the current owners of Casa Batlló bought the house and two years later, in 1995, Casa Batlló began to hire out its facilities for different events. More than 2,500 square meters of rooms within the building were rented out for many different functions. Due to the building's location and the beauty of the facilities being rented, the rooms of Casa Batlló were in very high demand and hosted many important events for the city.
In 2002, the house opened its doors to the public, as part of the celebration of the International Year of Gaudí , and people were allowed to visit the ‘noble floor’. This was so successful with visitors eager to see the rest of the house, that two years later, in celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of work on Casa Batlló the fifth floor was restored, and the house extended its visit to the loft and the well. In 2005, Casa Batlló became a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The colours of this house were deliberately chosen to help it stand out from the other more drab buildings that surrounded it and to make the building even more interesting, Gaudí depicted the Legend of Saint George in the façade of Casa Batlló as well as its roof and interior. He also built a ‘dragon’s eye’ on the terrace roof – through which one could once see the Sagrada Familia in the distance. The view of the Sagrada Familia through the dragon’s eye is now blocked by new buildings.
Façade - From the outside, the façade of Casa Batlló looks like it has been made from skulls and bones. The "Skulls" are in fact balconies and the "bones" are supporting pillars.
Gaudí used colours and shapes found in marine life as inspiration for this building e.g. the colours chosen for the façade are those found in natural coral. The facade has three distinct sections which are harmoniously integrated.
- 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 central part, which reaches the last floor, is a multicolored section with protruding balconies.
- 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.
Gaudí kept the rectangular shape of the old building's balconies—with iron railings in the shape of masks—giving the rest of the facade an ascending undulating form. He also faced the facade with ceramic and glass fragments of various colours ("trencadís"), which Gaudí obtained from the waste material of the Pelegrí glass works. The central part of the facade is intended to look like the surface of a lake with water lilies, 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.
Roof - The facade culminates in catenary vaults covered with two layers of brick and faced with glazed ceramic tiles in the form of scales (in shades of yellow, green and blue), which resemble a dragon's back;.
The roof's arched profile recalls the spine of the dragon with ceramic tiles for scales, and a small triangular window towards the right of the structure simulates the eye. The tiles were given a metallic sheen to simulate the varying scales of the monster, with the colour 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.
The helicoidal chimneys are a notable feature of the roof, topped with conical caps, covered in clear glass in the centre and ceramics at the top, and surmounted by clear glass balls filled with sand of different colours.
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. …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 loft - is considered to be one of the most unusual spaces. It was formerly a service area for the tenants of the different apartments in the building which contained laundry rooms and storage areas. It is known for its simplicity of shapes and its Mediterranean influence through the use of white on the walls. It contains a series of sixty catenary arches that create a space which represents the ribcage of an animal. Some people believe that the “ribcage” design of the arches is a ribcage for the dragon's spine that is represented in the roof.
Courtyard - The interior courtyard is roofed by a skylight supported by an iron structure in the shape of a double T, which rests on a series of catenary aches.
As we have seen in all his other buildings lighting was an exceptionally important design consideration for Gaudi, who tried to incorporate features that helped to avoid ‘flat’ shadowless and featureless interiors. He used skylights, windows, shutters and blinds in combination, as well as colour and stained glass. In the atrium of the Casa Batlló, he used graded colour to achieve a uniform distribution of light throughout the interior.
Interior - At that time, there was an increasing demand for more domestic comfort, with piped water and gas and the use of electric light, all of which expertly incorporated into the design.
If you decide to take a look around inside you will learn how much attention to detail Gaudí spent on his designs thinking about such things as varying window size depending on how high the window is from the top of the building. In this way he could ensure uniform lighting conditions in each room of the house.
The noble floor - is larger than seven-hundred square meters. It is the main floor of the building and is accessed through a private entrance hall that uses skylights resembling tortoise shells and vaulted walls in curving shapes. On the noble floor, there is a spacious landing with direct views to the blue tiling of the building well. On the Passeig de Gracia side is Mr. Batlló's study, a dining room, and a secluded quiet spot, decorated with a mushroom-shaped fireplace. The elaborate and animal-like décor continues throughout the whole noble floor.
[There is an audio tour that comes with the entrance ticket which gives you information on each of the rooms as well as insights into Gaudí and his influences when designing this house.]
The source of the experienceGaudí, Antoni
Concepts, symbols and science items
Science ItemsSacred geography
Sacred geography - castle
Sacred geography - cross
Sacred geography - guardians
Sacred geography - ley lines
Sacred geography - obelisk
Sacred geography - rivers and streams
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeauty, art and music
Being left handed
Believing in the spiritual world
Communing with nature