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Antoni Gaudí’s First Residential House Opens to the Public

Celebrated architect Antoni Gaudi received his first residential commission in 1877 when he was just 31. He created a stunning home for real-estate broker Manel Vicens i Montaner in a district of Barcelona which was a separate town at the time. Built between 1893 and 1899, Casa Vicens was Moorish in style and a monument to the unique talents of its architect.

Until recently, Casa Vicens has been closed to the public (more on that below) but the structure, which will capture your imagination with its intricate yet grand style, is now open for Gaudi enthusiasts (not to mention, Barcelona's residents and constant stream of tourists) to enjoy. It's another jewel in the city's crown, and this is what you need to know about it...

Casa Vicens Sold

In 1925, Vicens sold the property to Antoni Jover who converted the grand summer home into a three-family residence. The work was overseen by Gaudi’s friend Joan Baptista Serra de Martinez but sadly many of the original features were sacrificed including Gaudi’s amazing staircase. The walls and ceilings were repainted and water features in the gardens relocated.

Many visitors to the region would drop by the house over the years to admire Gaudi’s work but were unable to view the interior. They would have been disappointed had they toured the building as much of Gaudi’s work had been altered or lost.

Casa Vicens Restored

Everything changed when a Spanish bank purchased the property three years ago and resolved to restore the original features of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Using historical records and original photographs, artisans worked tirelessly to rediscover and recreate Gaudi’s work. Layers of paint were removed to reveal the original blue and green colour scheme. Ceiling reliefs were repaired and restored. Roof tiles were replaced using the period technique of "trencadis" – breaking up tiles into smaller pieces and fixing them with mortar.

Understanding Gaudi

Casa Vicens is crucial to our understanding of Gaudi. Many of the property’s architectural elements reveal the development of techniques which Gaudi would later use to create his greatest triumphs. These include the network of arches at the front of the house which echo his legendary Centenary Arch. The property also features an extensive use of ceramic tiles, elements which Gaudi would include in his buildings throughout his career.

A Relationship with Nature

In this spectacular house, Gaudi began to explore a building’s relationship to the natural world. At Casa Vicens, nature is brought into the building via ornamentation rather than through structural form. From the palmetto leaves of the front gates to the French marigolds adorning the exterior tiles, nature is fundamental to the design of the building. Painted ceilings reveal trompe l’oeil visions of flora and fauna whilst papier-mâché tiles create faux foliage on both the ceilings and the walls to continue a dialogue with the world around it.

Open to All

Now, Gaudi enthusiasts can visit Casa Vicens to explore the architect’s first residential house. Casa Vicens is open to the public, who on a daily basis, marvel at the work of a true master. Situated in a compact neighbourhood characterised by narrow streets, the house nonetheless feels worlds apart from its surroundings.

Gaudi’s brief had been to create a sumptuous structure befitting Vicens’ status. The architect delivered a unique and stunning home which some consider to be an early example of the Art Nouveau style. Others view the house as a triumph of Neo Mudejar (Moorish Revival) architecture, a style that combined neoclassical and intricate flourishes to produce a new and vibrant aesthetic.

As for us? We're booking that flight to Barcelona, stat.

Casa Vicens is located at Carrer de les Carolines, 20, 08012 Barcelona, Spain. You can book tickets to marvel in its beauty here.
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