Friday, May 8, 2009

Precedent Analysis [Final]

The unusual and intricate building along a street of discord that is reminiscent of a dragon is called Casa Batlló, a structure designed by Antoni Gaudí and constructed from 1905 to 1907 in Barcelona, Spain. The interest in this piece that made it of notice in architecture is mostly for its air of fantasy, extraordinary curving facade incorporated with engaged and decorative columns, and inspiring brilliantly colored mosaic walls throughout the building made simply to be categorized as an apartment building.

The man behind the unusual design of Casa Ballto is Antonio Gaudi, born in Reus, Spain in 1852. The Spanish architect’s work was most classified in the modernismo period and even into that of the Art Nouveau style of the 19th century. Casa Ballto and its counter part Casa Mila are late examples of Gaudi’s commercial design beginning construction in 1905. The building itself is still in the same condition as it was the day it was finished and it a popular tourist attraction in the city of Barcelona, Spain. Tours are given of the main floor, Piano Nobile, where the Ballto family who owned the aristocratic apartment lived and the attic terrace on the roof where the chimneys and elaborate roof is located.

When brought up in conversation, the most elaborate and recognizable part of the building of Casa Batllo would have to be the front Façade seen from the streets of Barcelona. The pillars and balconies are depicted to many as having a bone like appearance leading to its nickname of the “House of Bones”, sometimes it is also described like teeth of some yawning beast as well. Stain glass windows and Catalan style mosaic tiles adorn the front of the structure as well adding to the fantasy aspect of the building genre and making it all the more appealing to come up to, especially in the sunlight. It is thought that the inspiration for this idea came from marine life, especially when talking about colors of natural coral. The front façade of Casa Batllo has a very contrasting designs as opposed to its sister design, Casa Mila which is smoother and more stone like appearance with beige monochromatic colors. Continuing through the building, Casa Batllo does not disappoint on the interior in comparison to the exterior front façade, the theme of irregular shapes and curves is continued in the doorways, hallways, stairwells, and ceilings as the building builds from its base to its peak. Great attention to detailed was paid throughout the building from the wooden curving doorways to the designed to be in it to the fireplace that looks like it was carved right out of the wall. More mosaic accents mimicked from the outside are brought inside as well to continue with the colorful theme of the apartment. The final and more ostentatious part of the building would have to be the rooftop terrace. The rooftop itself continues the curving hill like pattern adorned with colors and textured stones that make it look like the back of a dragon according to authorities on Gaudi’s architecture, many think it may be associated with the medieval story of St. George and the dragon with the bone like items on the front façade being the remains of the dragon’s victims.

All designs have to start from somewhere in the realm of architecture, many designers and architects take inspiration from old designs of ancient times and sometimes the influence is unintentional because these old designs were the building blocks for the new. Casa Batllo and its elements that make it so successful mimic many different proceeding buildings from the past as Gaudi made it in a more modern style for the future. The idea of using mosaic tiles came from the Romans when they created the Roman public baths for their citizens, the tiles added an element of delight then as they do now with Gaudi’s design when reflecting the sunlight and lightening a room. The idea of the roof top décor being based of the story of St. George and the Dragon is a medieval concept from art in the Early Christian Byzantium period where the cross like form of the elaborate chimneys represents the sword that slew the dragon. One more interesting precedent comes from the French Baroque ideas in that frivolous curves dominated the style of architecture and played on the idea of Trompe L' oeil, also known as a fool of the eye with shapes and structure. This is mimicked by the vortex like ceilings and fontal façade of the ‘creature’ within the building. Going aside from the ostentatious designs and elaborate ideas of Casa Batllo, even the most basic layout of the apartment itself has precedent to the past. The whole idea of porch, court, and hearth adapted first by the Romans with their temples is still emulated even in Gaudi’s design: the porch being the frontal façade and balconies of the structure, the court being the main floor and staircases since they would be the most used by either the family or the other renters, and the hearth being the fireplaces or central parts of the ceilings that seem to be like swirling whirlpools that bring the viewer to the center of the structure.

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