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Updated: 5th September 2023
Barcelona is one of the best cities to visit in Spain for good reason. The Catalan capital serves up everything you need for the perfect city break: central sandy beaches, acclaimed food and drink, a clutch of world-class museums and some of the most creative and unique architecture on the planet. And for that, we must thank Antoni Gaudí – the mastermind behind some of the city’s most famous attractions.
Of those, one certainly stands out in sharing the story of the late architect: Casa Batlló. While not as vast as Park Güell or as imposing as La Sagrada Familia, the intricate attention to detail and whimsical touches inside this remodelled and recently renovated family home left me in awe. A much more intimate experience than the soaring ceilings of the cathedral, here I really felt able to understand the influences and (some) of the inner workings of Gaudí’s visionary artistic mind.
And since 2022, that task has become a little easier for visitors, thanks to a forward-thinking interactive experience that brings Casa Batlló to life like never before. From multimedia projections sharing Gaudï’s childhood inspirations to new contemporary installations crafted by international artists, a tour of this gorgeous home is much more than just seeing – but why is this residence wedged between two rather bland facades so important?
Antoni Gaudí’s architectural imprint in Barcelona
With more than a dozen of Gaudí’s architectural wonders dotted around Barcelona, the legacy of the great Catalonian architecture more than lives on in the city. Of these, some have earned Unesco status, and a trio of central marvels, in particular, are staples on any visit to Spain’s second city: La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and, of course, Casa Batlló.
But to understand why this home on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the city’s most elegant boulevards, has become so intricately connected to the architect, we have to trace his life and studies – for Casa Batlló was actually originally built by one of his professors, Emilio Sala Cortés.
Gaudí was born in 1852 in Reus, Spain (south of Barcelona, near Tarragona), and his passion for design is said to have been nurtured in his father’s workshop. However, due to poor health in his youth, he would spend long periods stuck inside, and this window of time is often cited as when much of his interest in nature and shapes was formed. After moving to Barcelona, Gaudí started his architecture studies proper, where his creative and unique ideas blossomed. Quickly after graduating, commissions of all sizes arrived, resulting in many of the numerous architectural masterpieces that still stand – and in perhaps the most famous case, are still being completed – today.
The remodelling of Casa Batlló by Gaudí in a modernist style took place between 1904 and 1906. By then, it had been sold to the Batlló family and was no longer owned by his former professor. With the freedom to redesign the building at his whim, Gaudí created something truly special within – and indeed, outside – these walls. Perhaps it was that freedom that made me feel like the home was much more connected to the architect himself as I explored the many marvellous rooms.
That’s not to say the building hasn’t evolved and changed over the century since, and various adjustments have occurred. And so, it’s rather fitting that last year, on the 170th anniversary of Gaudí’s birth, Casa Batlló again sought a new creative way to present the home to visitors.
Casa Batlló’s new award-winning interactive experience
Combining the original visionary works of Antoní Gaudí with modern artists, such as architect Kengo Kuma (most famous for his work on Japan’s Olympics or in Kochi) and modern-media creative Refik Anadol, Casa Batlló’s new experience has taken creative, bold steps.
On the 75-minute interactive tour, you’ll walk through some of Gaudí’s grandest creations in the house: The Noble Floor with its butterfly-like windows, the ‘Dragon’s Belly’ hallway, the recently restored Main Hall, the blue tiled lightwell, and the cityscape views from the fanciful rooftop. But all of this is accompanied by plenty of new interactive touches, weaving in Gaudí’s inspiration en route.
Starting from the fully immersive ‘Gaudí Dôme’, where the architect’s childhood inspiration of nature envelops the space, through to Refik Anadol’s 360-degree enveloping lightroom, the ‘Gaudí Cube’, everything has been designed to delight the senses. Anadol is also the mastermind behind the ‘Living Architecture’ presentation, projected onto Casa Batlló by night.
Other highlights include Kengo Kuma’s shimmering rain-like descent to the basement, which brings another creative side to the dwelling’s story, as does Dani Howard’s compositions, with her soundtrack accompanying the tour. Augmented Reality Tablets enhance the experience by providing interactive and informative content, and by the end of the experience, you won’t just feel like you’ve visited Casa Batlló but perhaps inside part of Gaudí’s genius mind, too.
Plan your visit to Casa Batlló
Tickets can be brought online in advance via the official website, and you can enjoy the 75-minute experience daily during visiting hours: 9 AM to 8 PM, with the final entry at 7:15 PM. Entry for children up to 12 years is complimentary.
Throughout the summer months, ‘Magic Nights’ are hosted, which include a visit to Casa Batlló, followed by an evening concert.
After visiting Casa Batlló and some of Gaudí’s other famous sites, don’t forget to try and seek out some of Spain’s hidden gems too – this architect’s designs might have mainly been limited to Catalonia. However, he has a couple of other works around the country, including in León, Spain.