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The Façade

For the new façade, with connotations of styles from very different periods (from the Romanesque to the Baroque), the architect shied away from the vertical alignment of the components, distributing an uneven number of openings on each floor, and even looking to create an effect of balanced asymmetry (door on the left / closed balcony on the right / balcony on the left again) and a fictitious irregularity, seeing as all horizontal dimensions (110 cm balcony doors, windows and gallery / 220 cm separation between the balcony doors on the main floor / 330 cm separation between the windows on the first floor) come from a strictly predetermined module of 55 cm, which coincides with the struts of the balcony.

The singular stair-like top that crowns the building serves to integrate the new photographic study built on the roof (that, by law, had to be separated by some metres from the neighbouring buildings) with the rest of the building. It was a solution that the architect adopted, as he was aware that the more Southern countries in Europe did this regularly, in order to resolve the apparent problem of terraced houses with gabled rooves.

the plans of Puig i Cadafalch for the façade of Casa Amatller
(1-6: National Archive of Catalonia / 7: Municipal Administration Archive)

Puig i Cadafalch used an important and innovative variety of colours for the façade (white, ochre and rusty-red sgraffities / tiles with both glazed and metallic finishes / green carpentry / black foundry / grey Montjuic stone) and a profuse decorative sculptural style, all of which form a rich iconographic discourse. There are also allusions to the family name (flowered almond tree branches featuring capital A’s, on the closed balcony / the verse “l’ametller és florit, l’bon temps s’acosta, ab sos nius d’ausells y sos poms de roses” - the almond tree is in flower, the good weather approaches, with its bird’s nests and its rose bouquets, by Dolors Monsardà - Puig i Cadafalch’s mother-in-law), as well as traditional references (San Jordi, the dragon and the princess / the traveller), the owner’s interests (painting / sculpture / architecture / music / photography) and, especially, around the three balcony doors, where an allegorical portrait is painted of Antoni Amatller himself through means of symbolic images depicting the three activities that best define him: industry, the arts (amongst them, photography) and the collection of archaeological glass.

The reformation of Casa Amatller signified a radical transformation of the criteria established in the Cerdà Plan of Barcelona’s Eixample. With his intervention, Puig i Cadafalch went against the main classicist rules based on symmetry and regularity, he surpassed the 22 metre height limit and he added the concept of colour as a prominent feature in the urban surroundings. That is to say, he introduced singularities into a context that was rooted in uniformity, bringing about the emergence of Modernisme in the Eixample district of Barcelona.

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