Casa Batlló is located in Passeig de Grŕcia, which was formerly the road linking Ciutat Vella, the oldest part of Barcelona, with the small town of Grŕcia, which nowadays is a district of the city.
After the approval in 1860 of Plan Cerdŕ, the plan for the development of the city, Passeig de Grŕcia began to take shape as the main axis of the urban expansion, and it was here that the city’s most prominent families began to establish their homes. The thoroughfare became an avenue for pedestrians and horse drawn coaches in the 19th century, and later became a main road for motor vehicles in the 20th century.
The building located at number Passeig de Grŕcia 43 was originally built by Emilio Sala Cortés in 1877, when there was still no electric lighting in Barcelona. It was acquired by Mr. Josep Batlló y Casanovas in 1903, and it was he who commissioned Gaudí to carry out work on it. The initial plan was to knock the existing building down, but finally it was decided to renovate instead. It is thought that prior to this there must have been a farmhouse or a country house on this site, as the remains of a larder can still be seen in the basement. This would have been used to keep food cool in the old days.
Antoni Gaudí carried out a total refurbishment between 1904 and 1906. Through his original reform of the facade, the redistribution of the internal partitions and the expansion of the building well, Gaudí achieved one of his most poetic and inspired artistic compositions.
Gaudí worked without any limitations on his creative freedom in the transformation of a work of civil engineering which was originally built in 1877.
The south side of Passeig de Grŕcia between Consell de Cent and Aragó today represents a single facade of adjoining houses from the early 20th century, built by the most distinguished architects. This stretch is known as “La Manzana de la Discordia”, a play on words meaning both the Block of Discord and the Bone of Contention. Here, architects such as Domčnec i Montaner, Enrique Sagnier, Puig i Cadafalch and Antoni Gaudí built adjacent works of art which in their day competed for urban design prizes awarded by the Barcelona City Council.
The undulating facade, covered in glazed ceramic polychromatic discs and shards of different coloured broken glass, has been compared pictorially to The Water Lilies, the series of oil paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926).
The crowning of the facade with what appears to be a dragon, the four-armed cross atop a small cylindrical tower projecting from the roof which might represent the hilt of a sword, and the bone-like columns and iron balconies which are suggestive of skulls, have given rise to popular interpretations surrounding the legend of Sant Jordi (Saint George), who is the patron saint of Catalonia.
Other legends relate the outside of the building to aspects of the carnival: the crown of the facade looks like a Harlequin’s hat; the colourful mosaic tiling, known as trencadís, resembles confetti; and the shape of the railings is reminiscent of masks.
Within the city, it is known by various nicknames – the house of the bones, the house of the masks, the house of the yawns, and the house of the dragon. It is impossible to remain indifferent to its spectacular appearance, which causes passers-by to stop and gaze at it at all hours of the day.
Moving beyond popular interpretations, the facade is a joyful composition – Gaudí winking at humanity. When it catches the first light of the morning, its shining, sparkling brilliance brings it to life and imbues it with harmonious and balanced movement, making it seem like a living, organic creature in the urban landscape.
Casa Batlló passed from the Batlló family’s ownership in the 1950s, after having suffered significant damage during the civil war, when it provided shelter for around one hundred refugees.
Since the 1990s, the building has been the property of its current owners, who have commissioned a succession of works to restore the house fully, both in terms of its structure and its ornamental aspects.
From 1995, an initial line of business was developed which consisted of the hiring out of function rooms for events and conventions. In 2002, Casa Batlló opened its doors to the general public for cultural visits, on the occasion of the celebration of the International Year of Gaudí. Both of these activities are still continuing today, and are enjoying constant growth and new innovations in terms of what is on offer and what there is to see.
Today, Casa Batlló is one of the iconic landmarks of Barcelona, and one of the best loved cultural and tourist attractions. The building is managed by the company by the same name, Casa Batlló S.L.U., which has become a prestigious name synonymous with reliability, and which is distinguished by its open and innovative management in all spheres of activity.