Battló, the Magic Dragon
The corners will vanish, and the material will reveal itself in the wealth of its astral curves… and it will be like a vision of Paradise. Antoni Gaudí
Adjacent to Puig's Casa Amatller is a building that in many ways complements it and acts as a foil. As playful as it often is, there is something solid and material about the Casa Amattler; the Casa Batlló is the stuff of dreams.
Like the other two 'apples of discord' on the Passeig de Gràcia, this house was already built in 1904 when Gaudí was commissioned by its owner, textile tycoon Josep Batlló, to give it a facelift and make it look less dowdy next to the fancy chocolate baron's pad next door. Battló got his money's worth. Among other things, he got the biggest St Jordi and the dragon in Barcelona—the entire façade is covered in a rippling scaly blue-green skin of ceramic plaques (carefully painted with dabs of colour, according the Gaudí's direction) and trencadis that shimmer by day and glitter magically in the street lights.
Josep Maria Jujol, Gaudí’s great collaborator, made the roof into the dragon’s curving back (the arched window is actually a peephole that allowed Gaudí to check on the building’s progress). St George's lance is in the form of a typical Gaudí pinnacle with its bulb dome and cross, piercing the dragon and setting off the symmetry of the Casa Amatller.
The balconies on the first floor suggest the dragon's secret lair, hinting of bones and skulls of past dragon dinners. One balcony shows the rose that grew from its blood—the rose that men give their women folk on St George's day.
Nor was Gaudí's reworking all on the outside: he completely rebuilt Battló's apartment on the first floor, and in the Gaudí Year 2002, parts of this unique house were opened to the public. Visits have proved so popular that it has remained open ever since. And as he promised, there's not a corner or straight line to be seen. The staircase alone, a sensuous swoop of the dragon's tail, is worth the hefty price of admission.
Gaudí's attention to detail is simply breathtaking. The light-well in the centre of the building is a masterpiece: using dark blue tiles on top and gradually lighter ones towards the bottom avoids the effect of light glaring down into a pit.
The back of the house is beautiful as well, covered in multi-coloured trencadis, visible from an undulating terrace scattered with ceramic fountains and sculpted ponds. The balconies, of delicate wrought iron, look like fishing nets being tossed in the air.
The tour includes the attic, a magical white space of parabolic arches, designed for hanging up the residents' laundry, as well as the roof, where the trencadi-covered chimneys, invisible from the ground, form the end of the dragon’s multi-spiked tail.
Passeig de Gràcia 43
Adm €21.50; €18.50 ages 7-18, students and 65 and over; under 7 free. Book tickets on line to avoid standing in long queues; for another €5 get in even faster with a Fast Pass.
metro: Passeig de Gràcia
+34 93 216 03 06