When it comes to architecture, there are some names sculpted right into our collective memory. Antoni Gaudí was a Catalan architect who probably most changed the trajectory of his field with his singular perspective. In the Gràcia neighbourhood of northern Barcelona, one of his early masterpieces has come back to life thanks to a massive restoration project.
Gaudí planned out Casa Vicens between 1883 and 1885 for its first owner, Manel Vicens i Montaner, who hired the young architect (just in his thirties) to conjure up his first house in Barcelona. Specifically, a summer house. A fantastically lush garden with waterfalls and fountains first adorned the outdoors, while the exterior and interior walls of the Casa were decorated with nature-inspired motifs.
The magnificently unique structure is characterised by intense, bright colours (mostly green, red and white) and floral patterned tiling with yellow blooms and bulbs. Casa Vicens will re-open to the public soon, on 16 November. Visitors entering the property will be immersed in Gaudí’s verdant world, astounded by the sheer number of leaves and blossoms that coat the walls and ceilings in continuum with the outside.
Keep in mind that the site was expanded in 1925 by another architect, Joan Baptista Serra de Martínez (1888-1962). The Jover family had by now taken up residence in the home, and had its square meterage nearly doubled. By this time, Gaudí was busying himself with the Sagrada Familia, and although he could not participate, he blessed the project.
In 2014, Mora Bank purchased Casa Vicens and funded its restoration, offering the public a chance to encounter this gem and prelude to Modernisme. Different styles now co-exist in the same space (there are strong echoes of Moorish architecture as well) and the two souls of the house are connected by a new staircase that leads viewers to the upper floors, where temporary exhibitions and videos lend further context about the era in which Casa Vicens came to be.
The eye gets ensnared by the esgrafiats and intricate patterning designed for each room. On the main floor, thirty-two oil paintings by Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés (1845-1918) from the personal collection of Señor Vicens have also been conserved. The porch is ornamented with a fountain that holds a metal net on top, where water once refracted rainbows while trickling down. Virtually living images of birds flit across the doors on this ground level, while upstairs is found a rich trompe l’oeil with more avian species circling the ceiling of a room where ladies sang and played music.
Last but not least, the walkable rooftop merits mentioning. It was in fact possible to stroll along the entire perimeter of the roof, just as at other Gaudí constructions, from Palau Güell to La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. The visit ends up here, and it’s time to consider all the wonders Antoni Gaudí (with the help of talented artisans) assembled in this single place, employing his avant-garde sense of balance, colour theory and exuberant line.
Text by Diana Di Nuzzo
Photographs courtesy of Casa Vicens