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Casa Batllo – Barcelona, Spain

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Next door to the Casa Amatller, Casa Batlló was designed by Gaudí in 1905 and is hands-down the superior of the three works in the block. Using sensuous curves in iron and stone and glittering, luminous trencadis(collage of broken tiles and ceramic) on the facade, the Casa Batlló is widely thought to represent the legend of Saint George (the patron saint of Catalonia) and his dragon. The balconies are protected by imposing skull-like formations and supported by vertebrae-like columns representing the dragon’s victims, while the spectacular roof is the dragon’s humped and glossy scaled back. Saint George can be seen in the turret, his lance crowned by a cross. Although the admission price may seem steep compared to many other Gaudí attractions, the interior of the building is just as extravagantly spectacular as the exterior, with sinuous staircases, flowing wood paneling, and a stained-glass gallery supported by yet more bone-like columns. Custom-made Gaudí-designed furniture is scattered throughout. Gaudí was strongly influenced by medieval French architect Viollet-le-Duc, who tried to design chairs and benches to fit the human anatomy (an early form of ergonomics?). His own furnishings were mainly constructed from wood or iron, with leather or velvet touches. The benches and upright chairs you see in Casa Batlló are functional, however, compared to his flamboyant chaise-longues and dressing tables in Palau Güell.

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