The rehabilitation and restoration of Casa Vicens were necessary in order to showcase and recover Antoni Gaudí’s original design to the extent possible.
This restoration also comes with the necessary rehabilitation to adapt Casa Vicens to its new cultural use and public visits to ensure that it complies with the safety, accessibility and comfort measures that a future cultural asset of its kind should have.
Finally, the project includes an action in its immediate environs aimed at improving Casa Vicens’ relationship with neighbouring buildings, thus contributing to preserving its architectural and landscape values as well as improving views of it.
The final restoration and rehabilitation project is the outcome of research performed in the architectural studios of Martínez Lapeña–Torres Arquitectes and Daw Office, along with the project’s head of museology, Marta Antuñano. A laborious analysis enabled us to ascertain, understand and interpret different aspects of the house that were heretofore unknown, such as the gallery that opens onto the garden – with an enter system of revolving blinds and the smokers’ area – whose original colours we have managed to determine and recover. They also researched and studied the different building techniques used to construct it in order to respect the requirements of a building that has been declared an Asset of National Cultural Interest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Casa Vicens, a single-family summer house designed for Manel Vicens in the Village of Gràcia (1883-1885)
Over its 130 years of history, Casa Vicens has solely been used as a residence, originally as a summer home and later as a first residence. It has undergone a succession of different changes and modifications – even being divided into different independent flats – with the goal of adapting it to the needs of the owners at all times. Despite this, Gaudí’s work has been virtually wholly preserved.
Casa Vicens was envisioned as a complex whose presence offered an innovative aesthetic whole in both its interior and exterior decorative elements and its garden.
Antoni Gaudí designed a summer house divided into four levels: the basement for storage; the ground floor to house the living room, dining room and kitchen; the first floor, which was meant for the bedrooms; and the top floor for the servants. At first the house only had three façades since it was attached to the neighbouring construction on the northeast side; the southwest served as the main façade open to the extensive gardens surrounding the house. This orientation guaranteed sunlight and favourable climatic conditions during the different seasons of the year. The sgraffito inscriptions on the frieze of the gallery that opens onto the garden, which refer to each of the house’s orientations, attest to the deliberateness of this orientation.
The ground-floor gallery was one of the most important spaces in the construction. It was envisioned as a semi-open space to connect the indoors with the outdoors, and it allowed the nature in the garden to visually enter the living/dining room. The garden featured a large waterfall nestled within a parabolic arch which helped to cool off the house’s gallery, along with a second circular fountain near the street.
In Casa Vicens, Gaudí started with the constructive simplicity inherent to the techniques rooted in the Catalan tradition. However, his architectural vision and conception led him to create richly complex geometries, with a composition of polygonal lines different to the curved geometries of the later works with which the architect is now more often associated. In Casa Vicens, Gaudí created an interplay of concave and convex spaces, lights and shadows, colours and textures typical of the Moorish imagination which engages in dialogue with the Mediterranean vegetation.
Gaudí found nature to be the most important source of inspiration in his entire oeuvre, and Casa Vicens is one of the earliest examples of this, since a variety of natural elements are represented and integrated into the entire complex. Worth highlighting are the cast iron grille at the entrance to the house, which depicts a palmetto leaf, and the French marigold flowers that the architect used as an ornamental motif on the ceramic tiles on the façade. Not only is this reference to natural elements is present on the house’s façade, but Gaudí also managed to bring nature into the house via the integration of the different decorative arts – wrought iron, painting, ceramic, woodworking, murals, etc. – thus creating a relationship between the indoor and outdoor space.
With Casa Vicens, Antoni Gaudí created an innovative, original work. Beyond its Orientalist features, it marks a stylistic rupture with everything built in Catalonia until then, which is why Casa Vicens is regarded as one of the early masterpieces of Art Nouveau (Modernisme).
Adaptating Casa Vicens to cultural use
The current appearance of Casa Vicens and its estate is the outcome of the different changes and transformations that it has undergone throughout its history, which have left three clearly distinct areas: the original construction from 1883-1885, the work of Antoni Gaudí; the enlargement made in 1925 by Joan Baptista Serra de Martínez; and the garden around it.
Bearing in mind its new use as a museum and cultural site, the rehabilitation project sought to adapt the spaces of the building that correspond to the 1925 enlargement so they can house the different services required by new cultural spaces. In this way, the spaces originally designed by Gaudí did not have to be modified.
First of all, the spaces designed by Serra de Martínez will be used to serve visitors and will complement the tour of the entire house. The ground floor will house the visitor welcome area, while the spaces on the first and second floors will be set up to house the permanent exhibition halls displaying information about the building, along with the temporary exhibitions and activities related to the museological project.
Secondly, this 1925 enlargement allows us to resolve the building’s accessibility. The circulation through the building will be organised with the construction of a new staircase which restores the original one from the single-family home, which disappeared with the enlargement. A lift up to the roof has also been installed to connect all the floors in the building.
Finally, the basement of both the original building and the enlargement – spaces that have been transformed over time – will house the bookshop and shop. The different installations (electricity, heating and air conditioning, data) which are needed for the new facility to operate, as well as the restrooms and other areas for internal use, will also be located in the basement. Finally, the café will be located at the end of the garden.
Casa Vicens will open its doors in Autumn 2017
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A new beginning for Casa Vicens
The rehabilitation and restoration of Casa Vicens were necessary in order to showcase and recover Antoni Gaudí’s original design to the extent possible. This restoration also comes with the necessary rehabilitation to adapt Casa Vicens to its new cultural use and public visits to ensure that it complies with the safety, accessibility and comfort measures that a future cultural asset of its kind should have. Finally, the project includes an action in its immediate environs aimed...
- Year 2017
- Work finished in 2017
- Status Completed works
- Type Recovery/Restoration of Historic Buildings