Casa Batlló is a house in the center of Barcelona designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. It is widely considered to be among his finest works, and was built for a prosperous local family in 1904. The house was in fact a reworking of a structure that had previously stood on the same site. Many residents of the city refer to the building as the House of Bones because of its somewhat skeleton-like appearance and its almost complete lack of straight edges.
Three houses were built in a block on a fashionable boulevard in the years around the turn of the 20th century. These were designed by renowned architects of the modernist school, including Montaner and Cadafalch. Gaudí himself designed the house which became known as Casa Batlló. The three houses demonstrated varying interpretations of modernism, although there was no formal competition among their designers. However, the striking contrasts between the three houses led Barcelona residents to dub the development the “Apple of Discord,” after the ancient Greek myth.
Of the three houses, Gaudí’s is the most flamboyant. Its exterior is reminiscent of a castle in a classic fairy tale. The house that first stood here was built in the mid 1870’s and was eventually bought by Josep Batlló i Casanovas, a wealthy industrialist. It is after Batlló that the building was named.
At first, Casanovas wanted Gaudí to demolish the existing structure and replace it with an entirely new building, but the architect felt that it would be better for him to adapt what was already there. Casanovas agreed, and in 1904 Gaudí began two years of work on the redevelopment. He added one extra story, overhauled the roof and facade, and made extensive changes to the building’s interior layout.
The roof is brightly colored, and is covered in scales that are designed to bring to mind the skin of a reptilian creature. Some critics have suggested that it is supposed to resemble a dragon. Allegedly, the cross-topped turret which stands on the roof symbolizes St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia, whose most famous myth concerns his slaying of such a monster. The facade also bears some macabre decorations featuring skulls and bones which are said to stand for the human victims that the dragon has previously killed and eaten.
The house’s facade is also very colorful. Gaudí used sandstone to face the building, and then covered it with a number of mosaics in a traditional Catalan style known as trencadis. As is the case in many of his other buildings, curves predominate over straight edges; for example, the windows on the upper floor are designed in offbeat oval shapes. A bone motif also appears here, with the upper balconies being supported by pillars resembling fragments of skull, and those below having bone-shaped pillars.
Inside, the main floor of the house covers an area of 7,500 square feet. Again, straight lines are avoided as much as possible, with even the skylights in the roof being shaped like the shells of turtles. Leading off this are several smaller rooms, such as the study originally used by Batlló and a private room intended for couples. The floor is elaborately decorated, often with animal themes. The floor was opened to the public in 2002 as part of a year-long Gaudí celebration, with the entire house becoming a World Heritage Site three years later.