Having remained a private residence for over a century, the restored Casa Vicens in Barcelona’s Gràcia district was the overture to Antoni Gaudí’s body of work and hints at the future of Art Nouveau in Catalonia.
Originally built as a summer home for Manel Vicens i Montaner between 1883 and 1885, the design reacted heavily to the oriental-figurative styles that were fashionable at the time.
Following simple Catalan construction methods, Gaudí ‘s interpretation utilised decorative and symbolic elements, which were highly personalised and displayed the creative freedom that would become the hallmark of his entire future oeuvre. Currently, Casa Vicens stands as the eighth UNESCO World Heritage Site to be listed in Catalonia, alongside his other projects: La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, Park Güell, the Palau de la Música and Hospital Sant Pau.
Gaudí’s architectural vision for the four-level summer house led him to create richly complex geometries with an innovative composition of polygonal lines dissimilar to the curved style he was later more often associated with. An interplay of concave and convex spaces, light and shadows, colours and textures typical of the Moorish styles found in the country’s southern region, Gaudí found nature and the dialogue with the Mediterranean vegetation to be a key source for his inspiration.
The ground-floor gallery was regarded as one of the most important spaces in the construction and in its restoration. Envisaged as a semi-open space, Gaudí connected the interior with the outdoors, allowing nature in the garden to visually enter the living and dining spaces. References to nature became integrated within various surfaces including the cast-iron entrance grille, which depicts a palmetto leaf, in addition to the façade, which is clad in ceramic tiles illustrated with French marigold motifs.
The goal for the restoration of Casa Vicens, was to holistically recover the intricate details from Gaudí’s original design and to eliminate the different wings and extensions which significantly changed the architect’s primary vision. Today, the building has been rehabilitated to its former glory, and stands as a new cultural institution for Barcelona.