In the middle of Passeig de Gràcia, the avenue in which all the most prestigious bourgeois families were settling, Josep Batlló acquired in 1903 a sombre building which Gaudí, in the prime of his professional life, would transform into one of his most original works.
It is a house full to the brim with joy and energy, in which undulating shapes and shades of blue predominate. Clearly inspired by nature and the Mediterranean Sea, it is a perfect expression of the creative freedom enjoyed by Gaudí.
Gaudí carried out a total refurbishment. He added two new storeys; he designed a new undulating skin for the facade, in spectacular polychrome composed of a mosaic of fragments of glass and ceramic discs, and culminating in an immense dragon’s back; and he unified the building wells, bathing the whole house in light and providing ventilation.
The main floor was home to the Batlló family. They occupied the whole floor, which contains the large lounge, with views over Passeig de Gràcia, and which is characterised by a long gallery with leaded windows and by the fine woodwork in its interior.
Another area which was added as part of the restoration and which stands out for its unusualness is the loft, which is a perfect combination of beauty and functionality, inspired by Mediterranean construction, and created using a series of catenary arches which support the vaults of the ceiling.
Although Gaudí did not write anything specific in this respect, the spectacular facade has given rise to many interpretations. For some people, it reminds them of an oil painting, or of Monet’s Water Lilies; for others it represents a carnival, in which the mosaic tiling is confetti, the wrought-iron balconies are masks, and the pinnacle of the facade is a Harlequin’s hat.
For many, the outside of Casa Batlló represents the legend of Sant Jordi (Saint George), the patron saint of Catalonia, and they interpret the tower with its four arms as the hilt of his sword cleaving the dragon’s back, the balconies as the skulls of the dragon’s victims, and the stone columns as their bones.
Casa Batlló was declared a UNESCO world Heritage Site in 2005.