The Casa Vicens in Barcelona, designed by Antoni Gaudí, dazzles with its spectrum of colors and detail. After being a private residence for more than 130 years, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has, after an extensive restoration, been opened to the public.
ANTONI GAUDÍ'S FIRST residential building in Barcelona catches the eye with its Moorish elements, rich nature theme and above all, its colorful ceramic tiles. The 31-year-old architect designed the Casa Vicens as a summer residence for stock broker Manel Vicens i Montaner, and it was built in the then village of Gracia during a period between 1883 and 1885.
Gaudí interpreted the style trends of this era as well as the region’s building traditions in a unique way. The color palette of the facade and the polygonal lines refer to the Mudéjar architecture, and the interior has been influenced by, among others, Asian aesthetics. At the end of the 19th century Catalonia had never before seen a building like the Casa Vicens, which is considered an early masterpiece of local art nouveau, modernisme.
The building also clearly reveals Gaudi's greatest source of inspiration, which was nature. The marigolds growing on the Casa Vicens plot have been incorporated in the decorative patterns of the ceramic wall tiles and the palm leaves of the large iron gate. Inside, sophisticated nature themes recur in mural paintings, wooden elements as well as in the colorful ceramic and papier-mâché ceiling decorations.
The Casa Vicens clearly reveals Gaudí's greatest source of inspiration, which was nature.
The house consists of four floors: in the cellar Gaudí created storage spaces; in the basement a kitchen, a dining room, a veranda and a smoking room; the first floor houses the sleeping- and bathrooms, and the attic the servants’ living quarters. The house was surrounded by a lush Mediterranean garden, which also included a spectacular gate-like waterfall.
Over the years, and with the change of owners, the Casa Vicens has experienced numerous modifications. The most significant of them is the Gaudi-approved extension, commissioned by architect Joan Baptista Serra de Martinez in 1925. The single-family summer residence was modified into a home for three families, and the size of the property was nearly doubled. Since then, the plot with its gardens has shrunk to its present size, and the waterfall and the Santa Rita chapel, built in connection with the extension, have been dismantled in order to make room for the new buildings on the block.
Over the years, and with the change of owners, the Casa Vicens has eperienced numerous modifications.
When MoraBanc acquired the Casa Vicens in 2014, the goal of the Andorran bank was restoring the building as close to its original state as possible, and to finally open Barcelona's eighth and final UNESCO World Heritage Site to the public. The project which was initiated in 2015 was attended by a team of architects, historians and restorers, who carefully studied historical documents and the house itself, in order to achieve the most authentic final result.
The structures added in the 1930s to the 1960s were removed, but the extension from the 1920s was preserved. This extension was to house the exhibition halls of the museum, and the part designed by Gaudí could thus be kept intact. A museum- and bookstore for hosting cultural events was created in the cellar, and a café, run by the Michelin star awarded Hofman Culinary School, at the back of the garden.
The Casa Vicens is an attractive destination not only due to its unique architecture but also its pleasant visitor’s experience. The house accepts a maximum of 20 visitors every 20 minutes, and tickets must be booked in advance, for a specific time.
Casa Vicens, Carrer de les Carolines, 20-26, Barcelona, Spain.
Architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926)
• Pioneer of Catalonian modernism
• Lived and worked all his life in Barcelona
• Most famous works include the Casa Milà, the Casa Batlló (La Pedrera), the Palau Güell, the Parc Güell and the Sagrada Família that is set to be completed in 2026
• Buried in the crypt of Sagrada Família
Text: Laura Hallikainen Images: Pol Viladoms