The inspiring imagination of Antoni Gaudí undoubtedly reveals itself in one of his most poetic and artistic designs for a building, Casa Batlló. His synthesis of animal shapes, vine-like curves, hints of bone and skeleton, and his use of lustrous colored bits of glazed ceramic and glass create a masterpiece that will forever astonish its observers.
His style encompasses all that defines the Art Nouveau, a School of French decorative artists from the 1890s who took influence from sinuous shapes in plants and nature. He explored his interests in flowing shapes, patterns and colors in the Casa Batlló, which was designed for the wealthy cotton baron Josep Batlló as a jolting contradiction to the rigid forms that surround it.
The front facade reveals striking textures, colors, and imagery that work together to conjure thoughts of fairytales and phantasmal dreams. The larger sculptural pieces that create the boundaries of the balconies and that frame the entrance resemble bones, suggesting a septum, eyebrows or clavicles, which keep to the anthropomorphic tone. As eyes wander up to the top of Casa Batlló, they are greeted by the dominating reptillian surface of the roof.
As an artist and believer in an all-encompassing design, it is unsurprising that the intensity of detail and materiality is not left to the exterior alone. The interior is perhaps even more detailed and designed, a continuation of the sinuous flowing walls and edges as well as color manipulation and incredible varying of the scale.
The dramatic humpback mound “is clad on one side by armour plating resembling an armadillo’s, while on the other side it is covered with trancedis fragments producing a subtle white-into-orange sheen. The spine is dotted with bulbous green and blue vertebrae, suggesting that these might be organisms in themselves, while the flowing lines where roof meets facade are edged with other armatures of saurian bone and joint.”
The interior is just as alive as it appears from the street; the knobbly spine lines the staircase through flowing wall forms of scale-like surfaces. The winding and twisting exhibited in the decorative features of doors, frames, peepholes, moldings and screens are all interpretations of the natural forms that inspired Gaudí’s art nouveau style.
The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), and indeed it does have a visceral, skeletal organic quality. It was originally designed for a middle-class family and situated in a prosperous district of Barcelona.
The building looks very remarkable — like everything Gaudí designed, only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense. The ground floor, in particular, is rather astonishing with tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stone work.
It seems that the goal of the designer was to avoid straight lines completely. Much of the façade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles (trencadís) that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues. The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. A common theory about the building is that the rounded feature to the left of centre, terminating at the top in a turret and cross, represents the lance of Saint George (patron saint of Catalonia, Gaudi's home), which has been plunged into the back of the dragon.