Commissioned by wealthy businessman Manuel Vicens, Casa Vicens was the first house Antoni Gaudí ever designed and is credited for inspiring the Catalan Modernisme architectural movement.
With its unusual blend of architectural influences, Casa Vicens is widely regarded as the first example of Catalan Modernisme, which is the architectural style that Barcelona is so famous for today.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and is the most recent Gaudí site to be opened to the public.
Tucked away in Barcelona’s Gracia neighbourhood, which would have been a completely separate satellite town at the time, Casa Vicens was built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the Vicens family. It was intended to be a place where they could go to escape the city.
The project almost bankrupted owner Manel Vicens i Montaner. But legend has it that in a bizarre twist of fate the finished result was so beautiful that it inspired a tile craze and Vicens, an established tile manufacturer, made all of his money back and then some.
There is other evidence, however, that suggests Vicens was actually a stockbroker, but I prefer the ’tile tycoon’ story myself, so let’s go with that one.
Gaudí would have been around 30 years old at the time of designing the house and was desperate to shirk the classical architectural standards of the time.
He was greatly inspired by Moorish and Oriental styles, which isn’t unusual in itself as both were in vogue at the time, but it was the way he mixed and matched them with such abandon that caused a stir.
The spiky, wrought iron gate was designed to resemble the giant palm tree that stood in the garden.
Casa Vicen’s façade is lavished with colourful tiles, an idea inspired by the marigolds that Gaudí found growing all over the property when he first went to measure it up.
This, along with many of the other design features, is why Casa Vicens reminds me so much of El Capricho, another summer house designed by Gaudi shortly after for another tycoon in beautiful Cantabria, northern Spain.
Gaudí also made use of dramatic towers, turrets, and jagged edges, hinting at what would later become his complete abandonment of straight lines. Because as Gaudí often said, “there are no straight lines in nature.” And nature was his ultimate muse.
Casa Vicens was privately owned up until 2007 (not by the original Vicens family), which means little has been written about it compared to Gaudí’s other building designs.
The property was put up for sale with an asking price of 35 million euros and a wealthy banking family bought it.
They have since spent God knows how much cash converting it into the spectacular museum and cultural centre it is today.
Make it Happen
Worth a visit? Definitely.
This building is a glimpse of Gaudí’s mind just as his genius began to blossom. This is the very seed of inspiration that inspired the Catalan Modernisme architectural movement, which ultimately led to Barcelona becoming the visual feast it is today.
Book your tickets online here from €12 (always worth getting the skip-the-line ticket).
And I’d definitely recommend taking the guided tour (from €22 including skip-the-line access) as there’s a lot of history to uncover at this gorgeous lump of history.
Pair your visit with a stroll around the gorgeous Gracia neighbourhood.
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