Casa Batlló

Visual Arts


Casa Batlló was designed by Antoni Gaudí, one of the greatest and most visionary architects of all time. It is one of the masterpieces of Catalan modernism, a true work of art which has joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and is one of Barcelona’s symbolic icons.

The building was first erected by Emilio Sala Cortés (one of Gaudí’s teachers) in 1877, but its real history began in 1907 when it was purchased by Josep Batlló i Casanovas, a wealthy entrepreneur active in the textile business. He commissioned Gaudí to create a mansion and the Casa Batlló was the result.

Batlló gave the architect complete freedom, both architectural and financial, and suggested that the original building be demolished: but Gaudí considered this unnecessary and preferred to renovate the building from top to bottom.

Work started in 1904 and finished two years later. Gaudí succeeded in transforming the previous building and turned it into a truly unique architectural masterpiece.

Casa Batlló is an amazing demonstration of the architect’s fervid fantasy. The lower part of the building’s facade is distinctive on account of its organic style and the bone-like columns which give it a dramatically surreal appearance. The upper part, on the other hand, is characterised by trencadís (typical Catalan mosaics) which cover the walls, by the wrought iron balconies reminiscent of theatre masks and by the spectacular roof whose fish-scale tiles emulate the spine of a mysterious mythological reptile.

The exterior of the building suggests that Gaudí was a genius; the interior confirms it. Just cross the threshold and you are transported into a different dimension. Most of the building’s interior was designed in the style of a marine habitat: the colour of the tiles on the walls of the atrium; the lights resembling turtle shells; the ceiling of the so-called ‘Noble Floor’ which simulates the waves of the sea; and many more details besides.

The architect took personal care of each detail in an extraordinarily meticulous way – the furnishing, materials used, decorations and lighting. And he employed the best craftsmen of the times to turn the concepts he had in mind into reality.

Gaudí’ belief was that his works should be inspired by nature. He believed that the fundamental mistake of generations of architects had been to trust to the dictates of Euclidean geometry by promoting shapes which could not be found naturally and which did not harmonise with nature as a consequence. Casa Batlló is a perfect example of this, in that the work overall overflows with a huge variety of curved shapes and lines.

The building was sold by the Batlló family in the 1950s. It passed from one owner to another until it was purchased by the Catalan entrepreneur Enric Bernat, the founder of Chupa Chups, in the 1990s.

Nowadays Casa Batlló is open to the public with the exception of a few private apartments.

Our thanks to Casa Batlló for their cooperation in producing this article.

Barcelona, February 2019