Everything has a beginning, and in this house, Antoni Gaudí thought for the first time about short distances and about the intimacy of emotion and desire.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this first home by the genius behind Modernisme is the embryo of a universal style. However, before it came experimentation, and that is why Casa Vicens is sundry and modern: In it, Catalan, Islamic, Japanese and English inspirations and techniques come together.
Everything has a beginning. People have beginnings. Welcome to Gaudí’s beginning.
1883-1885. Casa Vicens, design by Gaudí
Stockbroker Manel Vicens i Montaner (1836-1895) commissioned a young, 31-year-old Gaudí to design his summer home. It was Gaudí’s first building in Barcelona, and in it, he exercised the full scope of his great talent.
1925. The Serra de Martínez Expansion
The Jover family, owners of the house since 1899, made it their habitual residence. In 1925, Joan Baptista Serra de Martínez (1888-1962) designed a renovation and received Gaudí’s seal of approval. Casa Vicens went from being a single-family home on the outskirts of the city to a multi-family residence with three apartments, one on each floor.
2015-2017. Return to Gaudí
Since MoraBanc acquired the property in 2014, Casa Vicens has undergone a transformation to restore it and showcase Gaudí’s original design as well as to adapt it to the needs of a 21st-century museum.
In the façades of Casa Vicens, Gaudí created a play on protruding and intruding elements, light and shadow, clearly inspired by the Orient, a fact particularly evident in the use of colour and decorated ceramics. The façade’s aesthetics and decoration showcase the value of the materials in their original state (stone, brick, ceramics, forged iron and wood), the value of texture and their ability to express.
The present-day garden is the result of the successive reductions the estate has seen throughout its history. The architectural elements—a waterfall, a circular fountain and a gazebo—that Gaudí designed cannot be recovered, but the ambience of the home’s original surroundings has been recreated.
The cast-iron grille replicates the leaf of a fan palm. It was created in 1885 to give access to the main door, but over time it came to surround the entire estate. Once restored, it was relocated to again welcome visitors, in front of the current main door of the house.
This connects the exterior and interior of the house, as can be seen in the very decoration of this space, particularly the trompe-l’oeil on the ceiling, which reproduces the sky and the leaves of the palms in the garden.
The porch at the entrance to Casa Vicens was restored to its original state, open with views of the street. The hall has seen many changes over time and now has a side entrance due to an expansion of the pavement in 1925.
This is the portion of the house with the greatest abundance of decorative and ornamental elements. Presided over by a hearth in the centre of the room, a set of original furniture frames the vertical surfaces and a collection of 32 oil paintings on wood and canvas by painter Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés (1845-1918).
The jewel of the house, this Arab-style room underwent a meticulous renovation to restore the original multi-coloured paintings. Special emphasis should also be placed on the uniqueness of the papier-mâché pieces covering the walls.
Committed to young talent and guaranteeing the highest quality, the Hofmann Culinary School runs a food and beverage space for visitors, offering complete and tasty breakfasts, brunches and snacks.
Gaudí designed the indoor spaces of this summer home to act as an extension of the garden, including Mediterranean flora and fauna in all interior decorations. Gaudí connected each room with itself and with one another, both chromatically and symbolically.
Above the covered porch is an outdoor space off the main bedroom, ensuring sufficient sunlight and ventilation. Gaudí closed off the perimeter of the terrace with a combination wood bench and railing with metal edgework, allowing for relaxed contemplation of the nature surrounding the house while still protecting this space.
Having a bathing area in the house shows that Casa Vicens was a pioneer in the use of running water, and the fact that underground water mines ran below the plot very likely allowed for a supply of water for domestic use.
Above the smoking room on the main floor, there is a small dome-covered sitting room featuring a trompe l’oeil that reproduces a low-angle view of the cupola that rises above the room to the rooftop. This is another element that allows one to connect the inside of a room with the outside.
In this garden-facing room, there is a representation of the passionflower, a recurring motif in Gaudí’s work and yet another example of how Gaudí conceived the home’s indoor spaces as being outdoors and vice versa.
Gaudí designed ingenious hexagonal halls for both the first and main floors, thus eliminating corridors and maximising use of the space.
Originally, a Catalan vaulted staircase connected all floors of the house. All that remains of the staircase, eliminated in the expansion by Serra de Martínez, are the remains of the greyish sgraffito recovered in the stairwell’s landing area.
With all of the internal partitions, subsequent surfacing and false ceilings removed during the renovation and restoration process, the attic has been returned to the original, open structure designed by Antoni Gaudí in keeping with traditional Catalan home architecture. The architectural typology suggests that this space may have originally been intended for the servants of the house.
A journey through the history of Gaudí’s first house: the sociocultural context of the time, the architect’s previous work, the sources and influences found in it, the extensions and renovations carried out on the estate and the techniques and materials used in the constructive and decorative elements of Casa Vicens.
This was Gaudí’s first accessible rooftop, a place to get away from it all and contemplate, a true vantage point for looking out over 19th-century Barcelona. The towers and domes on the various corners of the building reveal the influence of Arab and Oriental architectural styles.
La Capell, a social economy cooperative, is extending its scope of activity from the city centre to the Gràcia district. It supplies and coordinates a range of products and activities conceived specifically for Casa Vicens.