Casa Batlló

Malu Piedrabuena

managing director
Nina Bernat (Mrs.) chief executive / president

Casa Batlló

Passeig de Gracia, 43 08007 Barcelona Spain

www.casabatllo.es

Gaudi's Total Work of Art

This landmark building in Barcelona city centre known today as Casa Batlloacute; was refurbished by the brilliant Catalan architect Antoni Gaudiacute; between 1904 and 1906, on a commission from the textile manufacturer Josep Batlloacute; i Casanovas.

Gaudiacute; reached the height of his powers in a crucial period in the history of modern art, which is when Art Nouveau was flourishing, especially in Catalonia, where it was called Modernisme and was an expression of Catalan identity. It impregnated literature and music, painting, sculpture, the decorative arts and most of all architecture. It is the historical context of the great geniuses of the land such as Daliacute;, Gaudiacute;, Miroacute; and Picasso. It was the time of highly organised industrial guilds specialising in a wide range of disciplines. Gaudiacute; was one of the outstanding architects of his day although, since he had fully mastered his own personal style, he could afford to dissociate himself from any contemporary or historical school.

The universal exhibitions of 1888 and 1929 brought new sparkle and created an outward-looking historical context which had a positive influence on the world of culture and the arts. That was also the time of the great expansion of the city beyond its original boundaries with the Cerdagrave; Town Plan. All these events made Barcelona the industrial and cultural motor of Spain.

Both his employer Sentilde;or Batlloacute; and the authorities allowed Gaudiacute; to work with an unusual creative freedom. The result: a total work of art, original and spectacular: looking at it not only produces admiration and pleasure; it moves and broadens the soul, as art critics and scholars have said.

Gaudiacute; redid a completely flat facade, giving it life and colour with ornaments that have fed myths and legends for a century. He put an enormous dragon on the roof and covered the undulating faccedil;ade with broken glass and ceramic discs to achieve splashes of colour that have been compared to Claude Monet's water lilies. The balconies are shaped like masks and the great gallery incorporated into the main floor is flanked by columns representing bones and plant adornments. Gaudiacute; acted on the front and rear facades, joined the wells and equipped them with an ultramodern central skylight. He coated the interior walls with ceramics ranging from deep blue to white and arranged small windows on the upper floors and large ones on the lower ones to obtain a more even distribution of light. He added two more floors, including the double attic with its distinctive vaulted ceiling, and the roof with its sets of dancing chimneys where the dragon attains maximum realism.

Surrounded by the leading industrialists and with full mastery of all the arts, Gaudiacute; brilliantly applied and transformed the most disparate materials in his refurbishment of Casa Batlloacute;: use of ceramics outside and inside with an excellent handling of colour, relief and broken glass, leaded window panes to filter the sunlight, word carved to obtain impossible volumes and forms, wrought iron and cast iron, carved sandstone from Montjuiuml;c...
Light and air, form and colour, design and architecture...

With the passage of the years, the different uses to which the building has been put and cultural indifference in the decades that followed the Spanish Civil War the building inevitably deteriorated. The foundation of the Casa Batlloacute; S.L. company in 1994 provided the impetus for restoration works in successive stages until the house was returned to its full splendour. Nina Bernat, the chief executive and owner, is a lover of design and art by vocation and profession, and she has devoted herself wholeheartedly to the project.
Moreover, her efficient, creative management of the building from the company of the same name has enabled it to generate the funds required for the costly financing of the conservation and permanent maintenance works.

In spring 2004 we decided to collect the graphic and documentary information about the work done and submit it to the 2004 Europa Nostra Awards for conservation of the heritage. We compiled everything available, since obviously the works had been done disinterestedly, with no purpose other than conservation of the heritage. More than by the natural private ambition a Europa Nostra award would mean, we were moved by a desire to make Casa Batlloacute; and Antoni Gaudiacute; known at an international forum. We had no experience in candidatures of this kind, but we keenly followed the instructions in the call for entries, packed all the material in a large box, commended ourselves to the spirit of Gaudiacute; and sent it off to The Hague!

Notes from the recent report:

- In March 2002, to coincide with Gaudiacute; International Year (the 150th anniversary of his birth), Casa Batlloacute; began the cultural visits to the piano nobile of the building.
- In March 2004, to celebrate the centenary of Casa Batlloacute; the new route around the attics and roof was opened. A symbolic act of the HUNDRED YEARS and HUNDRED HEARTS in celebration.
- In June 2004, the adaptations for the blind were introduced (adaptation of the audio guide texts, production of texts in braille, relief models of the faccedil;ade and the Piano Nobile, training of the room staff ).
- 2005, great efforts to promote and publicise Casa Batlloacute;. Updating in tourist guides. Major advertising campaigns with Transportes Metropolitanos de Barcelona and the newspaper La Vanguardia, among others.
- June 2005 award of the 2004 Europa Nostra Award, Bergen, Norway.
- July 2005 Casa Batlloacute; is included in the World Heritage List at the UNESCO session in Durban, South Africa.
- November 2005, local 2004 Europa Nostra Award presented by H.M. Queen Sofiacute;a, Palacio de la Zarzuela, Madrid.
- March 2006, event to celebrate the international recognition (Europa Nostra Award and UNESCO World Heritage) and the close of the centenary, sponsored by Jean Nouvel. Spectacular theatrical performance by the Catalan group La Fura dels Baus.
- 8 June 2006, circulation of a postage stamp to commemorate the centenary of Casa Batlloacute;.
- September 2006, Participation of Casa Batlloacute; in the International Forum in Dubrovnik, Croatia.