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If you walk along the Passeig de Gràcia boulevard you can’t miss it: the colourful façade of Casa Batlló. The building’s frontage invites closer inspection. With its playful round windows and scaly roof, it has the aura of a fairytale castle. Its shapes and lines immediately reveal the identity of its creator: Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona’s most celebrated modernistic architect.
The house is named after its former owner, Josep Batlló y Casanovas, a rich textile magnate who commissioned Gaudí to renovate his home in 1904. The architect allowed his imagination to run wild and announced that he would create a paradise on earth. 2 years later, Casa Batlló had an extra floor and that wonderful façade. Significant changes were also made to the interior. There is hardly a straight line to be seen; Gaudí avoided these as much as possible in his designs. And Señor Batlló got exactly what he wanted: a remarkable house.
With a little imagination, it looks like a giant reptile has landed on Casa Batlló’s roof. Gaudí could have been depicting the legend of Saint George and the dragon. The tower with its cross may have represented the sword with which George killed the beast. Whereas the skulls on the façade recall the victims of the murderous dragon. Another explanation is that the exterior symbolises the spirit of carnival. In this interpretation, the roof represents a jester’s hat, the balconies are masks and the mosaic could be confetti.
Casa Batlló’s roof is just one of several noteworthy features along the boulevard. This block on the Passeig de Gràcia is home to several modernistic houses from the same period, including those by architects Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Barcelonans joke about the ‘Illa de la Discòrdia’, which loosely translates as ‘The Housing Block with a Twist’ and refers to the competition that existed between architects along this street.
Casa Batlló has good reason to be described as a legendary building. Anyone who sees its exuberant exterior alone would be hard pressed to recognise it as a residential building. For this reason, the interior is also well worth seeing. Make good use of the long opening hours (from 9:00 to 21:00 with entry permitted until 20:00). Try to arrive at sunset, when the light passing through the shell-shaped skylights creates a mysterious atmosphere. Be sure to visit Señor Batlló’s study and the festejador, a romantic spot by the carved fireplace where lovers can retreat.