Page C1.2 . 13 November 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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    Inside Casa Batlló


    What's special about Gaudí´s plastic language throughout the house is his use of shapes that are simultaneously familiar and strange. The delicate sandstone columns of the facade, for example, evoke both human tibias and delicate flowers.

    By abstracting natural forms, the architect creates a fundamental ambiguity in his imagery that contributes a dreamlike quality to the house. Medieval elements of design, such as the turret, the dragon-like roofline, and stained-glass windows add another layer of fantasy.

    Carving Light and Air

    Magic and mythmaking aside, Gaudí was meticulous in his attention to technical details. He introduced innovative solutions for lighting and ventilating the interiors. The exaggerated size of the windows on the street facade earned Casa Batlló the nickname "the house of yawns."

    At the center of the gallery level Gaudí creates the impression of a large curved window by setting successive panels at slight angles to each other. These panels are linked one to another by slide mechanisms so that when opened the whole living room is flooded with light and air.

    In the center of the building, Gaudí expanded the existing patio and installed a large skylight. Here the architect placed the elevator shaft and stairwell, while incorporating an ingenious scheme to distribute light evenly through the building.

    The patio walls of the upper floors are covered by cobalt-blue tiles; proceeding downwards, the color of the tiles fades to white. The darker tiles, closer to the skylight, reflect less light while the white tiles reflect more. When viewed from below, the patio walls are perceived as a continuous intermediate blue color. With the same objective of even lighting in mind, Gaudí placed smaller windows on the upper floors of the patio and larger ones on the lower levels.

    At Casa Batlló, Gaudí worked with an organic language by abstracting natural forms. This was after years of successive experiments with forms from the Islamic, Gothic, and baroque traditions. His next and last private commission, the Pedrera (1906-1912), reflects the lyrical, sculptural style that he first fully expressed in Casa Batlló.

    Rachel Grossman writes about travel, fine arts, architecture, and interior design from Madrid, Spain. She holds a graduate degree from the Courtauld Institute in Modern Art History.

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    ArchWeek Image

    The Casa Batlló, an art nouveau masterpiece of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí, in Barcelona.
    Great Buildings Photo © Howard Davis

    ArchWeek Image

    Detail of a sandstone column showing the dual floral/ skeletal motif.
    Photo: Rachel Grossman

    ArchWeek Image

    The dining room opening out onto terrace.
    Photo: Rachel Grossman

    ArchWeek Image

    Part of the dragon-spine roof line.
    Photo: Rachel Grossman

    ArchWeek Image

    Mosaic wall on the terrace.
    Photo: Rachel Grossman

    ArchWeek Image

    Detail of the spiral design on the ceiling of the living room.
    Photo: Rachel Grossman

    ArchWeek Image

    Detail of mosaic on the terrace, using the same techniques and materials of the street facade.
    Photo: Rachel Grossman

    ArchWeek Image

    Tiles that Gaudí designed for the Batlló bedroom. Rejected by Josep Batlló, the tiles now pave the walkways of the Paseo de Gracia.
    Photo: Rachel Grossman


    Click on thumbnail images
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