Barcelona

Casa Battló: A very Gaudí residence

Casa Battló
Casa Battló

Casa Battló (web site) is more of a fantasy mansion than a home you or I would ever be likely to live in. Then again, I don’t know you, your tastes, or your income bracket—so, who knows? That notwithstanding, Antoni Gaudí,  the famous Barcelonan architect, did indeed built as a residence. Built between 1904 and 1906 for the family of Josep Battló i Casanovas, a textile industrialist with factories in Barcelona, the structure today stands as one of a number of Barcelona’s monuments to the genius of Gaudí.

It’s not entirely accurate to say that it was built between 1904 and 1906. Emilio Sala Cortés originally constructed a building on the site in 1877. When it was bought by Joseph Battló, he commissioned Gaudí to built him a new home there. The first plan was to demolish the old building and start new. It was later decided to remodel the building instead. However, the renovations were so extensive that it would be hard to argue that it’s not a new building.

Curvaceous Inside and Out

Mushroom fireplace
Mushroom fireplace

The façade that Gaudí put on Cassa Batlló is weirdly spindly. It decorates and masks the building’s front with mosaics.

Inside, straight walls are few and far between. And it’s not just the walls. Most of the windows, some of which are fantastical stained glass, have curved or even wavy shapes.

Beautiful chandeliers light and grace rooms throughout the residence.

As suggested in the first paragraph, living in Casa Battló must have, on some level, been like living in a fantasy. Forms of fish are designed into the building in a number of spots. One banister is designed to resemble a vertebrae. And one room contains a fireplace set in a playful mushroom-shaped alcove. The alcove includes built-in benches on either side of fireplace.

Mediterranean Patio

Mediterranean Patio
Mediterranean patio

A few floors up from the ground level, there’s a Mediterranean patio. From there, I looked up and saw the colourful, fancifully decorated flat roof with curved front. 

Going back inside, there is an amazing light well that is decorated in tiles of shades of blue and grey. It looked to me like a nautical theme. However, I’m no good at identifying that kind of stuff if it’s too abstract. Surprisingly, in this, the rarest of cases, my guess was accurate. The “audio” guide confirmed it was nautical motif. (More on the audio guide and why I put quotes around “audio” later.)

Being a lazy soul, it took me a few months before I got around to writing this post. Nevertheless, I’m still patting myself on the back for getting that right before I was told by the “audio” guide. (Hey, I don’t have many accomplishments in my life. I’ll take credit for whatever I can get.)

My visit also allowed me to climb all the way to the roof and walk around up there. If you go to Casa Batlló, don’t miss that opportunity to do that. On the roof you’ll get to enjoy—and I do mean enjoy—Gaudí’s whimsical sculptures that serve as crowns for the chimneys. And, if they’re not whimsical enough for you, there’s also a sculpture of a dragon’s back. 

On the way out, there is, of course, the obligatory gift shop with trinkets, trash and even a bunch of good stuff. But, as a bonus, just before you get to the gift shop there’s a display of beautiful Gaudí-designed furniture.

Electronic “Audio” Guide to Casa Battló

 Whimsical chimney crowns

Whimsical chimney crowns

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that if you visit Casa Battló you should be sure to pick up the electronic “audio” guide. It’s available in multiple languages, including, fortunately for me, English. It was included in the admission price when I was there. It was impossible for me to miss the desk where I picked one up as I had to file past it just inside the entrance.

The electronic “audio” guide is amazing. Unlike a typical audio-only, wand-shaped museum audio guide which merely talks to you, Casa Battló’s version is on a tablet computer. As you enter a room for which there’s description in the guide, you hold the tablet up and look at the room as captured by the tablet’s camera. Because it’s a live picture off the camera, rather than one stored in the tablet, you see whatever you’re pointing at, no matter where you point the tablet’s camera.

Why, you might ask, might you want to look at the room through the tablet’s camera when you’re standing right there and can look at it live and in person? Well, definitely look at it unfiltered as well. However, when you view the room through the tablet’s camera, you don’t see only the room. You are also shown things superimposed on it. For example, in one room there were carpet and runners on what was a bare wooden floor in front of me. Chairs and couches and a dining table were also superimposed on an otherwise empty room. Giant fish and turtles floated through the space of another room. And there was a fire in a fireplace where there was no fire lit.

In short, in addition to providing descriptive and interpretive narratives, the electronic guide went further to show you what was once there, along with some phantasmagoria—and it was a hell of lot of fun, if you like that sort of thing. I do.

Been there? Done that? Do tell.