If any movie set designer would like to recreate the Sea Kingdom palace in all its fantastic splendor he probably could start with the famous Casa Batllo by Antoni Gaudi as an impulse to trigger an enormous imagination. Even if you’ve seen the images somewhere before you’ll be stunned: it’s ABSOLUTELY not what you’ve expected and certainly not like anything else you could imagine as a residential building.
A rainbow mirage on Passeig de Gracia, not a single straight line or angle: wavy walls and rooftop, curved balconies looking like the sea shells or the white mascarade masks playing make believe with you. The whole façade is laughing. Just looking at it makes me happy. Mosaic splashes of sparkling glass and ceramic inlays in blue-turquoise-purple-green colors are mesmerizing. I could stay there transfixed for hours. The beauty is hypnotic.
As it might be hard to believe but this emblematic Modernista gem wasn’t built from scratch. There was a classical otherwise an unremarkable building which was destined to be demolished when Gaudi was commissioned by a textile tycoon Josep Batllo to create an exclusive and outstanding dwelling for his distinguished family.
An so be it. The architect decided against pulling down the building, which by coincidence was built by one of his teachers, instead he completely remodeled façade and refurbished it in 1904-1906 at the very pic of his professional glory. Even having to comply with strict regulations he set the sails of his untamed imagination to create this marina fairy tale, and a wavy back of a scaled sea dragon topped the roof of an unusual house, outstanding indeed.
The rooftop terrace with ornamented chimneys.
The architect was meticulously serious about the tiniest detail. Not a color spec in wane. Not only every scale-tile was diamond shaped and individually colored with artistic precision, each and every is heavier at the bottom corner as if they’re melting.
Just wait till you get inside. Because of this unending fluidity you feel like floating not moving. I watched the visitors for a moment. With audio tours pressed to their ears they start to move funny in slow motion as this underwater kingdom embraces them.
The dunes of the undulated ceiling centered with magnificent chandelier.
The extraordinary interior design called for an extraordinary furnishings and light fixtures and Gaudi designed quite an impressive collection for his buildings. Not much survived though and some are displayed on the the upper floor. This hall on the main floor is empty and available for special events. One can only imagine what it was like originally.
The sea theme prevails. Barcelona is a city on a seashore after all and it felt only natural for the architect to be inspired by the waves and fantastic underwater creatures.
Every window hinge is custom made for this fantastic space. The stained glass geometric ornaments add more color to the inside. The Moderniste chandelier in cafeteria.
The sea motives and palette are everywhere in all possible variations, shapes and undertones. The culmination is an inner well court with a skylight , clad in shiny tiles blue as the sea, lighter at the bottom more intense to the top to increase the effect and to visually distribute the streaming light more evenly.
The Entrance and main staircase.
Free formed windows on various levels, transparent balconies, frosted glass on landings and elaborated Art Nouveau lift (so busy that I hadn’t even a split second to take a picture). Looking up - you’re in the sky, looking down you’re in the open sea.
Climbing up and up, as apartments aren’t accessible for visitors, you’ll reach house service quarters in the snow white attic. Beautiful gallery, pure soft forms and light and it was just a passage between storage, laundry and servants rooms. Perfection of calming lines and peaceful whiteness before you’re coming out to blinding sun of rooftop terrace and unbelievable array of colorful chimneys and a sleeping dragon covered in melting scales. He is obviously a good Dragon, not a bad or dangerous one. Just guarding his kingdom.
Attic. Household service area. Natural soft light. Mother of pearl pastels. Ornamental tiles.
A walk out to the roof terrace with a sand castle on the ceiling.
Melting soft corners and mosaic clad columns.
Gaudi’s contemporaries mentioned about his hard temper, gloomy disposition and most of all the extreme obsession with architecture. But not much written left, letters, diaries or memoires.
Gaudi was completely preoccupied with his work and didn’t welcome any destruction or socializing. He was a lonely star, better to say volcano.But look at this eruption of colors, images and forms: intriguing and light, cheerful and playful!
*All images copyright by Natalie Rapoport
To be continued.
See you soon.