Visit Casa Vicens
Do you plan to visit Casa Vicens? What, you’ve never heard of it? Well, in the first place, you’re not alone! The never-before-seen house was actually Gaudi’s first. To visit Casa Vicens is to see the beginning of a great architectural journey.
In the light of having only just opened in Barcelona in November 2017, that’s probably why you have never heard of it! However, it already has a TripAdvisor score of 4 out of 5! And, of course, it is a Unesco World Heritage site, like a lot of Gaudi buildings in Barcelona.
Visit Casa Vicens – Key Info
As mentioned before, Casa Vicens is quite new on the Gaudi trail having opened in late 2017. But it is already proving popular.
It’s a great start to understanding Gaudi’s architectural journey. Also, you can already start to see some of the influences that he would incorporate into later buildings.
Or, as a visit in its own right, it’s just a great quirky building to look around!
You can start seeing some of Gaudi’s touches in Casa Vicens but it is like he was holding back. Or, indeed, not quite there yet.
Were his ideas were not fully formed? Perhaps it is the fact that he didn’t want to make it too ‘weird’ on his first commission?
I say weird, even though it is not, at least to anyone who has seen his later work. But at the time his architecture was so radical and out there as to be almost alien!
Gaudi started work on Casa Vicens in 1883 when Manuel Vicens i Montaner approached him to build a summer home. It was Gaudi’s first big architectural project. Surprisingly, Gaudi had only been out of university for 5 years!
Accepting the commission and likewise, a certain amount of pressure, Gaudi set to work. I say pressure as there must have been pressure as the first commission can make or break a career!
It is strange seeing the building in amongst all the modern day apartments. But it must be remembered, the area where it was built was relatively quiet then, more in the suburbs.
Whereas today it has been, well and truly, absorbed by Barcelona. And, consequently, Casa Vicens looks slightly out of place in its surroundings.
Moorish Influences – Neo-Mudéjar at Casa Vicens
At first glance, it is easy to see the Oriental and Moorish influences that were forefront in Gaudi’s mind. Hardly surprising really as you consider the amount of Moorish architecture in Spain.
Not to mention the fact that architecturally, the Moorish style was very much in fashion at this time.
This style, known as Neo-Mudéjar is a Moorish revival style that first emerged in Madrid around 1874. Elements of this style are seen at Casa Vicens. For instance, the arabesque tiling and the use of the abstractly shaped brick ornamentations for the facades.
But, of course, this is Gaudi; there are a lot more influences than just Moorish!
The house was expanded in 1925 by architect Joan Baptista Serra de Martinez with a garden added as well. De Martinez added on a new bay construction to the back of the building, sympathetically following the same style as had Gaudí.
He also, significantly, extended the size of the garden and also modified the main floor entrances. Because of the widening of the road outside, consequently, the entrance to the house had to be changed too.
The former entrance was converted into windows that open directly on to the street. This can be seen in the main photo at the top of the page.
In brief, these renovations were done with the utmost respect for Gaudi’s original work. And Gaudí himself even approved these plans.
However, being too busy with the Sagrada Familia Gaudi didn’t actually work on the renovation. The house is now split with the original Gaudi rooms intact and the newer extension as exhibition spaces.
Casa Vicens Gardens
Viewing the garden today, it is not as it was 100 years ago. But, in essence, it is certainly a reflection on a rippling pond of what it used to be when Gaudi conceived it. There used to be a waterfall in the garden, but, horrifyingly, that was removed during one of the restorations.
The garden used to be where the apartment building to the left of Casa Vicens stands today. Built in the 1940’s it is a shame the garden was destroyed to make room for the apartments.
If you would like to see the garden in an old photo see here.
It’s hard to imagine these days ripping bits out of a house designed by any famous designer! But, of course, that was the way it was. However, there is talk of trying to make a reproduction of the waterfall. Old photos and plans of the waterfall, signed by Gaudi, still exist! So we shall see!
Gaudi’s influences here were also the Mediterranean flora. Which is also echoed nicely inside, as you can see from the interior pictures below.
Nature was one of Gaudi’s big influences and can, generally, be seen in all his works.
Inside Casa Vicens Interior
Inside Casa Vicens, one half of the house was designed by Gaudi, as mentioned before. The other half having been added by the architect Juan Sierra de Martinez. This other half has been turned into the exhibition spaces and is also well worth a look.
It holds a treasure trove of information including original plans and also books from the era. When we visited they were holding an exhibition to detail some of the works from Gaudi’s contemporaries.
The building itself is divided into 4 levels: a basement, two floors for living and a loft. The basement originally held the coal cellar. Of course, there is a gift shop down there now as well, such is progress!
A Good Balance of Old and New
A staircase has been added, chiefly to aid the flow of visitors. They haven’t tried to blend it in; it’s a modern staircase, unashamedly so. This, in my humble opinion, was the right thing to do.
I think it would have been terrible had the tried a ‘Faux Gaudi’ approach and tried to blend in the modern bits. Of course, people will disagree with this view, see what you think when you visit!
This mix of ages carries through to the rest of the house. Leaving you in no doubt which are the old parts and the new.
A lift has also been added which stops at every floor including the roof. Of course, not an original feature it allows access for everyone.
When you visit Casa Vicens you will find mosaics and tiles that feature heavily in the designs. This is one of Gaudi’s and the ‘modernisme’ movements in general, signature marks.
However, you can’t really describe Gaudi as wholly belonging to the ‘modernisme’ movement. He was, undoubtedly, very much mix of many different styles and influences.
When you visit Casa Vicens, check out the Roof!
This was Gaudi’s first open and accessible roof top. If you have seen Casa Batllo, you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t read on!
A small cupola can be found on the western corner of the roof and is accessible to the public. Once again, it is easy to see the Asian and Islamic influences up here. The chimneys and ventilation ducts also echo his other buildings in their ornateness and attention to detail.
The terracotta tiles on the roof all slope down into the roof. While this may seem a little weird to those who live in wet countries, Spain can be quite dry. Consequently, this was a way of collecting rainwater.
Standing on a narrow side street, Casa Vicens looks like a giant Lego house amongst its grey concrete neighbours. Just as unusual and photogenic as Casa Batllo, it is it’s polar opposite when it comes to design. Angular to the core, you can tell Gaudi was trying to push architecture boundaries without rocking the boat and putting people off his work.
Inside you get snippets of what is to come – gloss painted vine leaves as plaster ceiling motifs and blue scales on the bathroom ceiling to name a few. Well worth a visit for the contemporary second half of the building which houses an exhibition of his design work, and also far fewer visitors than his more famous buildings. To visit Casa Vicens is well worth it!
Visiting Casa Vicens – Conclusions
As a standalone visit, we had a great time! Some great architecture and a good deal of history can be found when you visit Casa Vicens along with so much more. I think if you were going to visit a couple more Gaudi buildings, it makes this one seem even more special.
It’s kind of like where it all started. Furthermore, you can see his ideas developing across several buildings if you were to visit, say, Casa Batllo and the Sagrada Familia as well.
Have you been to Casa Vicens? What were your thoughts? Post below to help other travellers!
Casa Vicens ticket costs
The Casa Vicens ticket costs can be seen in the table above. Tickets can be bought at the website.
Where is Casa Vicens?
Click on the map to get Directions for Casa Vicens
Metro: The nearest Metro stop to Casa Vicens is Fontana (L3) – 250 m
For more advice about travelling in Barcelona and the best tickets to buy on the metro, see my Guide to Public Transport in Barcelona – How to get Around
Open Every Day
Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm (doors close at 7 pm).
Closed: 25 December, 1 and 6 January.
For more on our Barcelona Gaudi Trail Adventures, click below
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