Casa Batlló is one of Barcelona's most emblematic Modernista buildings and popularly known as the Casa dels Ossos or House of Bones because of the skeletal shapes that make up its facade.
It was built by Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1906 for the textile magnate Josep Batlló at Passeig de Gràcia 43 in the Eixample District of Barcelona.
The building is located on the same section as Josep Puig i Cadafalch's Casa Amatller and Domènech i Montaner's Casa Lleó Morera.
This section of the street became known as the Manzana de la Discordia or Block of Discord hinting that the inevitable rivalry between Barcelona's three great Modernista architects would only be exacerbated by them having three signature buildings so close together.
The truth is that more than a century later, it appears that it is Gaudí's building that is generally considered to be not only the most beautiful but also the most challenging.
Josep Batlló was a Catalan textile magnate, who owned a number of
factories including Vapor Batlló on Carrer d'Urgell, which is now
incidentally home to the Escola Industrial.
Like many of the Barcelona bourgeoisie at the time, he wished to show off his wealth by owning a spectacular building in L'Eixample and bought number 43 Passeig de Gràcia, which had been built in 1875 by Emili Sala Cortés also responsible for Casa Elizalde amongst others.
Having invested the pricely sum of 510,000 pesetas, Batlló realised that his dream home was overshadowed by Puig i Cadafalch's Casa Amatller next door and Domènech i Montaner's Casa Lleó Morera, just down the road.
Consequently, he employed Gaudí, who aged 52 was at the height of his career, to restore and remodel the building, and the genial architect completely reformed the original.
Obviously, the high point is the facade and the picture shows Gaudí's original drawing. Gaudí and his team also added a fifth floor and excavated cellars. They enlarged the entrance hall and rebuilt the stairs.
Gaudí also replaced all the interior walls and curved them in such a way that there isn't a single straight line in the whole house.
However, what is so amazing about Gaudí is despite the apparent flights of fantasy, his buildings are always designed to be eminently practical.
The lower floors are unadorned sandstone from Montjuic but when Gaudí is involved nothing is plain.
The columns are curved like animal bones and surround stained glass windows that are reminiscent of caves and eyes in skulls at the same time.
As the building rises, the design becomes more ornate and the upper floors are covered with trencadis tiles that glitter in the sunlight and reflect the floodlights at night.
Casa Batlló is crowned by an undulating reddish blue roof that seems to be covered in reptile scales, and a Hansel and Gretel tower that - this being Gaudí - includes religious inscriptions.
Many interpretations have been proposed regarding the symbolism of the building.
The most widely accepted interpretation is that Casa Batlló represents the legend of Catalunya's patron saint Sant Jordi - Saint George in English - and his fight against the dragon.
The bone-like columns and the skull-shaped windows at the bottom of the building represent the dragon's victims.
The bright and scaly upper stories are the dragon's body, and the cross-shaped tower with religious inscriptions on the roof is Sant Jordi's sword.
So the red of the roof tiles then represents the dragon's blood flowing over its blue body.
If the facade is spectacular, the inside easily lives up to the expectations the exterior creates.
Always practical, Gaudí designed three access doors - one for the apartments, another for the car park and and a third for the shop.
The entrance halls are basically rectangular with curved ceilings.The floors are of white marble while blue tiles cover the walls.
The interior patio takes this explosion of blue to its limit and is absolutely breathtaking.
Following the precedent of white floors, the blue tiles begin light and get progressively darker the higher up you go.
To complete the optical effect, the windows on the lower floors are large and get gradually smaller as the building rises.
The apartments are a magnificent example of Gaudí's meticulous approach and combine sculpture, ironwork, glass work, furniture and ceramics.
The main apartment - belonging to the Batlló family - was the largest and was decorated in its entirety by Gaudí, including all the furniture
and other decorative elements.
Unfortunately, much of Gaudí's and Josep Maria Jujol's original furniture and Josep Llimona and Carles Mani's sculptures are now housed in other
The major rooms give you an excellent feel for the period , though, and I particularly the staircase in the form of an animal's backbone.
Apparently, this is the tail of the dragon that forms part of the facade - Gaudí always took his metaphors to the limit!
It appears that Gaudí continued with his tomfoolery in the attic, which looks very much like a large lizard's ribcage from the inside.
The culmination of any visit to Casa Batlló is when you get to the roof - a kind of sculptural garden put to practical use.
You access the roof from the attic via a spiral staircase, and in much the same way as La Pedrera or El Palau Güell, it is definitely one of
the highpoints of the visit.
The roof includes another attic - located inside the dragon's thigh - which houses the building's water deposit.
However, it is the air vents and chimneys that are the real attraction.
They have to be seen to be believed, and it never ceases to amaze that Gaudí could be so wondrously creative with such basic architectural elements.
Casa Batlló is open all year round from 9 am to 8 pm.
If you have a Barcelona Card, you get a 20% reduction on the Entrance Fee.
In the summer there are evening concerts, which generally start at 9.30 pm and tickets are anything between €15 and €25.