Masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi. Casa Batllo

Barcelona still is called the city of Gaudi not incidentally. The capital of Catalonia found the delightful shape in many respects thanks to masterpieces of the ingenious architect. It is difficult to believe, but to the middle of the 20th century the name Gaudi was a synonym of madness and nearly lacks of talent. Formally its architectural style is referred to a modernist style which dominated in Europe at a turn of 19-20 centuries. Actually, Gaudi’s style is unique. In a stack sense it has neither predecessors, nor direct followers. Gaudi’s architecture is an embodiment of philosophy and the imagination of the master and a little general has with fashionable trends of an era. This art of the future is more likely, than architectural monuments of the past. Therefore deserved recognition of the genius Gaudi came only at the end of the 20th century. And because of this, today there is such improbable interest to it phenomenon.

The majority of masterpieces of Gaudi are created in the elite central region of Barcelona – Eixample: Casa Vicense, Casa Calvet, Casa Battlo, Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia. The area arose in the 19th century when to the overpopulated city it became close within old city gate. The name Eixample is also translated with Catalan as “expansion”. If the aristocracy and governors of Barcelona long since lodged in the center of the Old city, Eshample located on other side of the square of Catalonia new owners of the city – the bourgeois mastered. Industrial magnates tried to exceed by each other in creation of extravagant mansions in the spirit of the times and ordered construction of the houses to the best architects. Therefore the central Eshample Street, Boulevard Gracie, became a modernist style kingdom in all its variety. “Quarter of disagreement” or the “Quarter of contention” designated so because of heterogeneity of the buildings making it is especially allocated here.

The Casa Batllo of Antoni Gaudi became the most surprising structure of “quarter of disagreement”. The wavy outlines, a scaly curved roof, the sparkling facing and oval eye-sockets of loggias it is similar to a fantastic animal that hid between houses. Catalans, sharp on language, christened Gaudi’s creation “The house of bones” for similarity the carved into a stone of rough arches and the thinnest columns with the picked bones, and small round balconies – with skulls of unfortunate “victims” of the fantastic monster. If to consider it is attentive, in the context of all creativity of the master, it will become clear that before us the stylized dragon or a huge dragon prostrate Saint George – one of patrons of Barcelona. The symbolical spear which pierced a back of a dragon represents Saint George’s cross on the tower crowning the building. The image of a dragon or dragon often meets in Gaudi’s works and goes back to Catalan traditions, legends and fairy tales with which his childhood was filled. Having a congenital illness of joints, little Antoni spent days behind reading, in lonely walks on the seashore or in a forge workshop of the father.

The built without straight lines and acute angles, transferring plasticity of the living being, bright and unusual, this house became an example of architecture of Gaudi, a new stage of his creativity. This was a stage of copying of natural forms and embodiments of the most courageous imaginations in a stone, iron and glass.

And creation of this masterpiece began with usual reorganization of an old mansion in Boulevard Gracie. In 1904 Antoni Gaudi secured the order from the textile magnate of Josep Batllo for reconstruction of his house built in the 70th years of the 19th century. In two years the old house turned into improbable work of architecture art.

From a former design there were only main walls adjoining from two parties the neighboring houses. Gaudi anew designed the main and back facades of the building, completely changed internal planning of the house, added a terrace roof, and reconstructed an internal court yard well.

Accurate symmetry of all building and its main facade which comes to Boulevard Gracie, is broken by a number of receptions. The turret with a cross in the initial plan settled down on the center of a roof was shifted to the left later. Symmetric drawing of window openings – on 4 on each of 4 central floors of a facade – gets off five huge entrance arches of the first floor similar to the opened mouth of an animal. And the top floor with three windows passes into the twisting line of the tile roof decorated on the upper edge and eaves with multi-colored ceramic beads. Not a roof and scaly back of a dragon! Even chimneys on a roof are disguised under the gear turrets reminding a draconian tail.

To achieve a wavy relief of a facade, the part of an old wall was removed. The difficult ornament from a round ceramic tile and color beaten glass emphasizes roughness of a surface. Such equipment creates surprising game of a treatment of light and shade: during the day at change of day lighting the house dragon changes the coloring – from gray-blue to pinkish-lilac. And the evening illumination does it simply fantastic!

The unique color effect was used by the architect and at registration of a back facade of the building forming an internal court yard well. Color of a facing tile here gradually changes shades – from purely white below to azure in a middle part, turning into cobalt color of the top floors. Thanks to it, the surface of a wall seems evenly painted, and light as though flows from below up.

Architectural focus was done by the master and with window openings in this “well”. Their size gradually decreases from first floors to the top. It not only brings asymmetry in a design, but also evenly distributes illumination of rooms at the different levels of the building.

The internal device of the house, on the one hand, has deep planning, traditional for Barcelona: the facade of the building clamped between the neighboring houses is more than two times less than the internal part leaving deep into quarter. And on the other hand, it is completely subordinated to the design genius Gaudi, turned the house into a labyrinth with a set of smooth bends. Twisting corridors and ladders, the parabolic arches because feeling in visitors that they came to be in a belly of a huge monster.

The interior of the house differs in the same plasticity and relief, as facades. Smooth lines are the cornerstone of all details. The volume wavy ceiling and the chandelier – “sun” in one of rooms, curved contours of furniture and columns, color stained-glass windows of windows loved by the master a mosaic create the unique atmosphere of the house. The system of internal light court yard developed by Gaudi – the big rooms having a set of exits – fills with light all house.

A large number of other masters worked on reconstruction of the house together with Gaudi: architects, furniture makers, sculptors, smiths, masters in an interior and masters in ceramics.

At all fancifulness of a construction of Gaudi it became not only a work of art, but also the cozy, warm, safe house. The architect to trifles thought over system of ventilation, lighting and fire safety.

This house still is considered inhabited. On its first floor expensive restaurant and on the top floor under a roof – the small museum of Gaudi settles down.

In the 60th years of the last century when the world rediscovered for Gaudi itself, the Casa Batllo was recognized as the Art monument of Barcelona and the Monument of national value and in 2005 entered the List of the World heritage of UNESCO.

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Author: Natalia Petrakova
Translation: Albina Akhmedova

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