Have you ever heard of Antoni Gaudi? I hadn't but it turned out that a funny-looking building (Casa Mila) in Barcelona which I saw in an issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller about 2 years ago is one of Barcelona's most famous buildings, designed by Gaudi. For architecture students like my daughter and her friend Cheryl, seeing Gaudi's buildings was the highlight of their Barcelona trip. I felt left out as they gasped, shrieked and screamed whenever we approached a Gaudi building. Even a non-archi person like me found Gaudi's buildings fascinating and they definitely made Barcelona special. In fact, without Gaudi's buildings, Barcelona would just be another big city.
We spent our third day in Barcelona checking out all the famous Gaudi buildings. He didn't build that many because he spent most of his life on La Sagrada Familia, a church that's still not completed after 150 years.
First, let's check out Casa Batllo. When we arrived and the building appeared in front of us, I gave a big snort. I mean, really, I've never seen a more ridiculous building before. Instead of straight columns, Casa Batllo had rounded bone-shaped columns and curved windows. There were scales and colorful chimneys and colorful mosiac tiles and I couldn't believe that people actually built such a strange-looking structure which is now one of the most studied and admired buildings by architect students.
Casa Batllo is frustrating to photograph because of the trees. Gaudi was run over by a tram nearby on 7 June 1926 and because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, he was mistaken for a tramp (lesson: dress well, bring money) so nobody sent him to hospital. When they finally did, they sent him to a hospital for the poor and by the time his friends found him, he was nearly gone. Despite the fact that he was the most famous and revered architect then, he refused to be moved from the hospital as he wanted to stay with the poor (lesson: don't be stubborn). He died a few days later, aged 73, and Barcelona mourned for him. He was working on La Sagrada Familia which remains unfinished to this day.
The roof of Casa Batllo is made to look like the dragon that St Geaorge slayed. Gaudi was a devout Catholic and his buildings reflect that.
The entrance fee into Casa Batllo was 16 euros and I refused to pay that amount. The entrance fee into the Louvre was only 9 euros. Built as an apartment, the building has on both sides two nearly as equally unusual neighbors, designed by two different architects. Because of the contradictory styles, the three buildings are known as 'Block of Discord'.
Block of Discord
From Casa Batllo, we walked about 20 minutes to Casa Mila, another apartment building designed by Gaudi. Maybe after being exposed to Gaudi's work, I was able to appreciate Casa Mila more. We paid for the entrance (students 7 euros, non-students/adults 12 euros I think) and I am so glad I checked this building out. But note that Rick Steves said Casa Batllo is a more interesting building. Never mind, next visit to Barcelona, I'll check Casa Batllo out..
Other than the curved walls of the apartment and the fact that each unit of apartment takes up one floor, allowing ventilation and window views from each room and that the display unit of apartment was decorated circa 20-30s style, the apartments were not spectacular. But go to the rooftop and step out into a Disney-like land of terra cotta steps, caves, chimneys and 360-degree view of Barcelona. Amazing. I just wondered at the mind of a person who is so unconventional and daring. With dangerous steps (I fell despite being careful) and low walls that can throw a person off the building, the whole rooftop is a perfect playground for playing hide-and-seek. In the middle of the building, you can peer down at the entrance below. The foyer of the building reflects the ocean.
Railings are needed to prevent people from falling down the centre of the building.