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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Casa Batlló: Getting Lost in Gaudi's Mind (Barcelona Series I)

"Those who look for the laws of nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator" - Antoni Gaudi 

Last time an artist's work spoke to me was during Alexander's Mcqueen's Savage Beauty Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Since then, it has occurred to me that in this world, there are a few gifted people with the kind of passion that can throw their lives into massive success and spiraling chaos (Think: Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Van Gogh). The passion I'm talking about finds a unique path and when you surrender to it, you may find yourself in a world that can border either on euphoria or depression. It's like a bipolar disorder with an on and off switch button.

In Barcelona, I found that Gaudi truly belonged to this group of individuals whose passionate works continued and will continue to resonate and inspire everyone around the world. Antoni Gaudi's love for nature, religion, design and Catalonia led to the creation of unparalleled architectural marvels in Barcelona. The most popular of his creations and the main draw of Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, a Cathedral that never ceases to astound and shock the senses. Since Sagrada Familia usually steals the spotlight, I'd like to write more about Gaudi's other works that equally deserve attention.

Let me start with the iconic Casa Batllo, one of Gaudi's exceptional masterpieces along Passeig de Gracia. It is part of Manzana de la Discordia (Block/Apple of Discord), a series of renowned buildings in this part of town. Casa Batllo is surreal architecture at its best, displaying elements of modernist Barcelona that will be impossible to find anywhere else in the world. 

The structure itself was built in 1877 but it was remodelled in 1904-1906 by Gaudi and Josep Maria Jujol. Josef Batllo, a wealthy textile industrialist and aristocrat, bought the place and asked Gaudi to tear it down and redesign it. Gaudi, with his singular talent, opted to keep the original building's structure. It was a challenge to imprint his vision on the project.
Casa Batllo has been called House of Bones because of the obvious visceral and skeletal elements found on the facade and interior. The skulls are the balconies while the bones are the supporting pillars.
The unique facade is made of broken ceramics that dot the whole exterior.
Entering Casa Batllo feels like a fantasy world where Gaudi's imagination runs free and wild. Uninhibited.

The fundamental inspiration here: Avoid straight lines as much as possible. Gaudi wanted to stay away from the mundane.  Despite the whimsical take on the design, however, Gaudi still carefully considered ergonomics. A fine example would be the handles of the stairs that were seamlessly made for the human grip.
One of my favorite pieces is the chandelier found in the Sala Principal or the Main Room. It looked like the whorling sun drawing the energy towards its center.
Another room contains this controversial circle of perfectly rounded bumps that remind you of a woman's bosom.
In this exact room, you'll find these two unusually placed pillars that block the door that  leads to an open space . Was this built for aesthetics? Did Gaudi have random design urges or was this part of a plan? 

As you head out into this wide space behind the building, you'll see all the mosaic tiles that explode in full color.

This area was designed as a light shaft. Gaudi's style always included ways to invite natural lighting into a room. From the top, the tiles fade into a lighter shade blue, giving you the feel that the shaft becomes brighter as you go down. The main staircase leads to the apartments which are for still for rent until today.

The landings are lined by opaque and distorted glasses. Looking through them, it would seem like you are actually looking through water. One floor up, you'll see parabolic arches whose  basic structural design was inspired by the ribs of sperm whales.

The roof is a everyone's favorite as opens it up to the city of Barcelona. The sweeping views of Passeig de Gracia tell you why Barcelona is one of the greatest cities in the world.

The chimney stacks, at least for me, reminds me of carnival and clowns.

This remarkable structure is the center of attention. It looks like a back of a dragon or dinosaur.
Here's a closer look.
The cross right beside it is believed to be the Lance of St George plunged into the back of the dragon.
Going to the attic, these clean but wider parabolic arches emerge again. 
Virtual Antoni Gaudi, the main man, is waiting for you.

Gaudi outdid himself with Casa Batllo. His imagination became concrete and tangible. It was unfortunate that during the latter years of his life, Gaudi seemed to have let himself go. Like most people with limitless passion and creativity, Gaudi might have reached an all time low. With his remarkable works and contribution to Barcelona and the world, Gaudi's sudden and manner of death did not suit him (He was ran over by a tram). Dressed like a homeless person, no one recognized this genius. For those who witnessed the tragic incident, little did they know that this man changed the course and history of Barcelona. 

Included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List,  Casa Batllo is a fantastic way to escape and get wonderfully lost in Gaudi's creative mind. Whether you understand Gaudi's intentions or not, you cannot help but be in awe and say: "What a privilege it is to have seen his works!"

Paraphrasing Paolo Coelho, I'll now ask you: "Would it be better to keep passion at bay or surrender blindly to it? I say,  go and surrender! The next Gaudi might be you.

Entrance Fee: 18, 15 Euros. 

More of Gaudi's Famous Designs. (I'll have a separate post for both)

Park Guell. A park that is perfectly located on top of the mountain. There's no better place to say Barcelona than from up here.

Casa Mila (La Pedrera). Considered to be another innovative designs of Gaudi, this buliding can be found a few meters away from Casa Batllo.



JJ said...

We did not visit this when we went there. Sagrada Familia lang. Incredible!

Anonymous said...

Crisp,titillating,his structures reverberates that life is indeed, a dream and that every humans are the same with angels who tremble for so much beauty.

I am so grateful that I read your blog again. ~chanella

deobaraanmd said...

Hi chanella! I loved your comment. Very poetic and quite appropriate for this post.

Cheers! Thank You for reading again.

deobaraanmd said...

@jj - next time you should! :)

Gladys | WanderingTandem.com said...

weird looking Casa Batllo, but i also love the chandelier :) great photos :)

Debomy said...

awesome buildings!!!

deobaraanmd said...

Thanks Gladys!

@Debomy - all of Gaudi's works are amazing!

Mika said...

Looks like someone's in the mood to write again! Love the entire post - the place itself and AGAIN, the play with words!!! ;)

deobaraanmd said...

thanks mika! i find it hard to write sometimes. I have been having a down time myself. haha. Happy New year!

oscar heredia palomo said...

You wrote a remarklabe article!

But as Barcelonì gotta point two things:
1. Name of who bought the house was Josep (Batllò i Casanovas) not Josef.
2. When I studied Gaudì I have been told this theory: The cross is said to be the handle of St. George’s sword. This would make the turret the shaft of the blade. The roof is representative of the hard skin of a dragon’s back, and the façade is its soft underbelly. The sandstone columns are the bones of the dragon’s victims, so are the balconies, which are skulls. Thus, the entire façade is symbolic of St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia.
La Renaixença was the national art, politics and design movement that engaged Modernism into a national Symbolism. And Gaudì was mad about this symbols, repeating in all his heritage.

Ok I stop the masterclass.
Sorry. ;-p
See you soon.

deobaraanmd said...

Haha! thanks for your comprehensive input Oscar! I can probably add more of those details here! I know how proud you are of Barcelona. :)

Yes, Ill definitely see you soon!

Renz Alcantara said...

Barcelona is insanely amazing! One day I will go back and explore more and perhaps when Sagrada Familia is finally finished :-)

deobaraanmd said...

it's one of my favorite cities in the world! love love

Doc Wends of Journeys and Travels said...

I so love this post. It is one of my dream to visit Spain and these photos excites me more.

Cheers :)

deobaraanmd said...

Thanks Doc Wends! You will love it. I seriously want to live in Barcelona one day..and perhaps study there for a year.