The Catalan sun of Barcelona is a welcome embrace to the rather grey sky of Bruxelles (and only an hour and 40-minute flight away). Travellers who love the water, the sea and the sand of a beach holiday, but don't feel like getting wet, should head to Avenue de Gràcias. Amongst a plethora of architectural styles, they will find Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece at Passeig de Gràcias, 43.
Gaudí made sure that anyone walking through Casa Batlló would not feel too far from the water. His oceanic palette and fluid frameworks in wood and tile englobe the visitor into a sea-like promenade without turbulent waves but with a rippling serenity.
Upon entering, visitors notice the rounded “corners” of doorways and windows. The staircase banister holds each hand in perfect form as it leads guests to Batlló's office and sitting rooms. Light shines from what looks like turtle backs and onto the wall motif resembling scales. Where Victor Horta's Art Nouveau comes across more flowery, Gaudí looks to the sea and its creatures for inspiration.
Through the next doors, windows span across the two front rooms separated only by a sliding wooden door. The ceiling droops and curves poetically with the door's framework, avoiding any straight lines. Out the windows, the Batlló family appreciated watching the comings and goings on busy Avenue de Gràcias up until the mid-1950s. To filter excess sun, Gaudí designed stained-glass along the top of the windows in the form of disks and in progressive shades of blues.
His choice of colors and shades is equally apparent down the walls from a domed skylight in the middle of the building. By using darker colored blue tiles towards the top and lighter colored tiles towards the bottom, the Barcelona sun shines through this area giving the look of all one shade.
Tiles are a prominent décor element throughout the interior of the house as well as on the facade. Some enthusiasts have even ventured to compare the exterior design to Monet's lilypads. To use tiles in the rounded areas of the house (down from the skylight, for example), Gaudí instructed his workers to break the tiles geometrically to be fitted in and around curved areas. The two tiled pillars in the dining room, for instance, demand attention before allowing guests onto the back terrace. The Barcelona sun is again center stage as it shines onto the tiled terrace and off the tiled wall at the back of the garden.
Up the final staircase from the attic, visitors marvel again at the tiles (600, according to the official website) Gaudí used to ornate the roof. Compared to a colorful dragon's back, it invites adults and children to enjoy the magic of Gaudí's creativity.
But, Gaudí was not only an esthetic genius. His ingenuity upheld Art Nouveau's marriage of form and function. As mentioned earlier, he took advantage of the abundance of natural light Barcelona offers. Yet, the city is also known for its heat. To assure proper air flow throughout the building, Gaudí designed discreet air shafts, most notable in the attic. This storage floor was also used as a laundry for residents. Along the walls are upward-facing shafts (possibly the only straight lines to be found) that lead lower into the structure. From the roof, visitors have an even better view of the air flow possibilities by looking down, around the skylight windows. Another example is in the design of the interior windows, best seen in the sewing room. A wooden frame supports the window panes that let in light. Yet, on the bottom half of this frame, slats can be adjusted according to the desired air flow. Like a sea creature, the Casa Batlló possesses air passages, gills if you will, allowing the house to breath...to live.