When Antoni Gaudi graduated from architecture school, the official who handed him his diploma famously remarked that Gaudi was either a genius or a fool. Gaudi’s fantastical Casa Batlló—which is the most distinctive house in a row of eccentric homes in Barcelona, often referred to as the “Island of Discord”—proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was indeed a genius. Casa Batlló boasts a roof resembling a crouching dragon, a futuristic white hallway that appears as if it belongs in a Martian spaceport, and delicate curved windows that evoke the shape of bones.
In the early 1900s, businessman Josep Batlló purchased a drab house in need of a significant makeover. Batlló enlisted the celebrated architect Antoni Gaudi to renovate the property. Opting to keep the original structure intact, Gaudi gave every inch of it a dramatic facelift. Channeling his interests in ceramics, Christian imagery, and nature, he created a truly unique edifice that has attracted throngs of curious onlookers since its completion in 1906.
Adorned with a plethora of ornate details, Casa Batlló would require weeks to examine fully. Its scaly roof, reminiscent of a dragon’s spine, is one of the building’s most striking features. This design draws upon the legend of St. George, who, according to local lore, saved a Catalan village by slaying a fearsome dragon. The rooftop also offers a spectacular view of Gaudi’s greatest masterpiece—the towering Sagrada Familia church.
Casa Batlló is now a museum open to the general public. For a nominal fee, visitors can tour both the interior and exterior of the building. In 2019, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed a series of mesmerizing metal-mesh curtains for Casa Batlló’s newly renovated basement, providing St. George with ample chain mail to shield him from the roof dragon’s wrath.
Antoni Gaudi was never one to explain the meanings behind his creations. Some visitors see balconies resembling ocean waves, while others interpret them as vertebrae. Some see pillars that mimic trees in a surreal forest, while others envision the interior of a futuristic church. Each viewer leaves with a different interpretation of Gaudi’s wondrous structures. No trip to Barcelona is complete without a tour of one of Gaudi’s magnificent masterpieces, and no photograph can fully capture the scope of his genius. Casa Batlló is the ideal place to spend a day marveling at Gaudi’s remarkable talent.
43 Passeig de Gràcia