As I approached Cassa Batllo from across the street, the morning light was hitting the facade of Antoni Gaudi’s building, casting shadows, and exaggerating the wave like ripples on the front. I had not read anything about this design and had just seen the amazing Sagrada Familia the day before – of course I was awestruck by its light and grandness. On this sunny bright day, I woke up early and got in line first thing in the morning, I didn’t want to deal with the hoards of architecture students- or tourists like my self.
The first three floors of the outside (Rostrum) had weird bone like structures, organic volumes poking out with hollow openings for the windows, it looked a little eerie, kind of gothic. Then the top floors had ballroom mask-like extrusions for balconies. I later learned that it’s nick name was “House of Bones.” When I looked closely at the front, I started seeing the outline of a bat with its wings open, fascinating!
As I entered the building I was greeted by an organic vestibule (the space that separates the outdoors form the indoors). The rounded shapes had an edgeless feel with its winding fluid walls. The banister and staircase looked like a whales skeletal structure. The hand carved swirling forms repeated in the wood as well as the walls. I later found out that it was connected to Gaudi’s inspiration from nature. This building is a great example of biomimicry (study of nature). Gaudi found inspiration in nature and applied it to his work. For example the swirls and whirlwinds represented the regeneration of nature for him. For me there was ocean- inspiration in everything; turtle shell hexagon patterns in the windows, painted patterns on the hand- painted, and designs on the walls.
I loved the weird oval, organic shaped windows and the way the space in each room played with light.
It was a treasure trove of over-the top fabulous decoration yet mathematically sound structure. The contrasting materials he used like Iron, glass, wood, tile, and stone surprised me at every turn. One of my favorite things was how the colored glass was used to mix colors with light. This is color theory at its best, the technical term for this is additive color( or RGB). Gaudi made beautiful secondary colors of yellow, magenta and cyan in the air with light. The stairwell that goes through the middle of the whole building also skillfully directs light into each apartment. Sunlight streams in from the top of the building and enters into each otherwise dark room. This stairwell was also decorated with different values of blue tile to take advantage of reflecting more light.
Gaudi back in 1906 was also conscious of sustainability. He designed Cassa Batllo to take advantage of the airflow and heat conservation, and used recycled materials in his architecture. The octopus like sculpture in the courtyard was made from bits of donated tiles.
I loved the quietness of the attic with its use of catenary arches in the hallways, and its parabolic arches in the main rooms.
These weight bearing arches only used minimal materials needed to give it structure. It had a calming feel with white-washed stone and tessellating tiles on the floor, airy with so much rhythm! As I walked into the terrace on the top of the building I was surprised by more playful sculptural elements. It was like a kids playground with a huge dragon like structure made up of a million different tiles and colors.