Casa Vicens Gaudí opens after 130 years
Text: Romee van Klaveren
Photos: Pol viladoms
People who visit Barcelona can now put another highlight on their list. The special and mysterious Casa Vicens, one of the first works by Gaudí, opened to the public after 130 years. With this, all Gaudí fans and city dwellers have seen a long-cherished wish fulfilled: to see the magical Casa Vicens from the inside.
Casa Vicens opened its doors to the public after have been closed for 130 years. This peculiar building, with exuberant decorative elements and distinct Moorish influences in its design, was the work of a young Antoni Gaudí who was for Manel Vicens i Montaner, a stockbroker in Barcelona. Although Gaudí had barely graduated and had no experience with constructing a house, the Vicens family had him build their summer residence in the then ‘village’ of Gràcia. Gaudí was allowed to throw all his talent into the design and used all kinds of decorative and symbolic elements that fell outside the standard. Casa Vicens became one of the first examples of the aesthetic renewal that took place in the art and architecture world in the late 19th century throughout Europe, the so-called Art Nouveau or Jugendstil, known in Catalonia as Modernisme Català.
The house, located on the Carrer de les Carolines in the quiet district of Gràcia, is a wonderful example of Catalan Modernism and a must-see for all Gaudífans. In addition to the beautiful tile work that adorns the entire building, the beautiful iron fence is also visible from the outside, decorated with natural motifs, such as palm leaves. Inside, the Casa Vicens is richly decorated in the most diverse styles with on the first floor a smoking room like a true oriental oasis. Palm trees on the wall and papiermache tiles in green, blue and gold, which were very popular at the time. During a visit to Casa Vicens you not only see all the beauty and splendor of all its rooms, but also an interesting exhibition about the history of Casa Vicens and its historical and architectural value. On the ground floor there is also a café where you can have a drink and relax before or after your visit.
In 1899 the widow of Manel Vicens, Dolors Giralt, sold the house to Antoni Jover i Puig. Over the years the house remained in private ownership, first as a summer residence and then as a permanent residence. In 1925 the architect J. B. Serra Martínez expanded the Casa Vicens, while retaining the criteria, shapes and colours used by Gaudí. With this, the Casa Vicens won the prize for the best building in Barcelona in 1927. In 1993 Casa Vicens was declared a historical monument and later in 2005 it was added to the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The Casa Vicens, which has been on sale for 30 million euros since 2007, was bought by the bank MoraBanc from Andorra in 2014 to restore it and open it as a museum.
Angelo Calgani (34) who lives in Barcelona is a huge fan of Gaudi. He says that the museum is beautiful from the outside, but unfortunately the entry fee is overpriced. ‘It’s a beautiful building, don’t get me wrong, but to pay 16 euro is a little bit too much if you ask me. I didn’t get in today, but maybe will do eventually in the future. The outside of the building is very colourful and impressing. So definitely worth walking by.’
The English Brenda Roberts who recently visited the Casa Vicense as well said: ‘The remodelled areas of the original were beautiful. Only criticism I have is the stark white interior is too severe and I wish they had gone more original on the exterior landscape instead of the concrete—pavers maybe? The rooms were beautiful and the renovated tiles, ceilings and walls amazing. Thank you for remodelling this whimsical first of Gaudi’s work.’