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  • Writer's pictureBob Barnett

Barcelona: Gaudi's Casa Batllo and the Nextdoor Neighbor, Casa Amatller

Casa Batllo

On a recent trip to Barcelona I had the pleasure of touring architect Antonio's Gaudi's famous multi-family apartment/home, Casa Batllo (left). After touring the amazing building, I stumbled onto the less familiar Casa Amatller next door (below), Much has been written about Casa Batllo, so I would only like to contribute a few brief musings about the two buildings. Try to see Casa Amatller before Casa Batllo. The reason is that Casa Amatller represents the height

of Barcelona's Modernism architectural movement prior to Gaudi. You will then be even more impressed with Gaudi's innovative design next door.

Casa Amatller was completed in 1900 for chocolate magnate Antoni Amatller. The architect was Josep Puig i Cadafalch, but much of the direction of the design seems to have come from Amatller himself, who was an aficionado of historical architectural styles. Amatller directed the design to include Visigoth inspired lighting, Moorish tile-work and faux beamed ceilings to replicate medieval buildings throughout Catalunya and greater Spain.

Casa Batllo next door was purchased by Josep Batlló y Casanovas, a textile industrialist, who essentially gave architect Antonio Gaudi free reign to renovate the existing building between 1904-1906. The finished façade is incredibly imposing, not for its scale but for the awe-inspiring design and use of vibrant materials. I can only imagine what Mr. Amatller, with his historic aesthetic, thought of Gaudi's creation as it was being built. Throughout the building, the nautical theme is both subtle and glaring. There are scarce signs of conventional nautical imagery, but the overall shapes, colors and patterns create a dazzling water theme.

Ultimately, for me, the level of the design is the most impressive feature of Casa Batllo. Almost every element has been designed, not just taken or borrowed from contemporary standard practices.

Door handles were not based on contemporary styles; the door handles and knobs are unique sculptures moulded to hands.

The second floor terrace is not flat; it undulates like waves with skylights providing dramatic daylight to rooms below.

The venting throughout the home is not standard venting; it is customized to each room and space. The attic venting is particularly remarkable as fin-like perforations are placed between the catenary arches, allowing light and air to fill the space.

Together, these two building provide contrasts within Barcelona's Modernist period: Client driven vs. architect driven, historical references vs. futuristic idealism.

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