The first important work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí after graduating from architecture school is now on sale. The Herrero Jover family, owners of Casa Vicens, decided to sell it on September of last year.
I stumbled upon this news a couple of weeks ago and it took me by surprise because it never occurred to me that anybody would sell any of Gaudí’s works.
See “update” at the end of the article.
Fascinating how a person would own one of the most interesting works of Gaudí to one day decide to sell it. Of course, I have no knowledge of the circumstances of the family at this point.
I thought they belonged to the state or some institution like that. It’s easy to forget that some of these properties are inhabited by regular people.
Who is Antoni Gaudí?
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was a Spanish Catalan architect born in 1852. He is notable because of being the main figure of the Spanish style movement called Modernisme, the equivalent of Art Nouveau in Spain.
But he is also more than just the main figure. Deeply religious, Gaudí’s work aims to praise the work of God through architecture and interior design.
This resulted in buildings and spaces like no others in the world, with intricate and unusual shapes and creatures that seem almost taken from a fantasy world, but in actuality inspired by God’s greatest work: nature.
How Casa Vicens came to be
Gaudí graduated from the Barcelona Higher School of Architecture in 1878 and in that same year, Mr. Manuel Vicens y Montaner (who had inherited the plot of land the previous year) commissioned Gaudí to design the then holiday house.
Being an industrialist who owned a brick and tile factory, these are two very important elements in the design of the house.
At this point Gaudí hadn’t developed his sinuous curvy signature style yet, but the display of creativity, incorporating Moorish (or Mudéjar) influences, especially at the top of the house, is astonishing.
The richness of patterns is just as exuberant in the interior of the house, where several Islamic influences are very notorious, such as in the Smoking Lounge.
Visiting Casa Vicens
Since the house is private property, it cannot be visited. However, I found that it is open to “neighbors and citizens” on May 22, Santa Rita’s day.
Casa Vicens is located at 24 Calle les Carolines (get it? What a fun coincidence!) in Barcelona, Spain.
There’s little information about the rooms and how the spaces are laid out.
The house is fairly large for modern standards and it’s four stories.
The semi-basement floor is 302 m2, the ground floor is 332 m2 plus 22 m2 of terrace, the first floor is 255 m2 plus 79 m2 of terrace and the second floor is 273 m2.
That’s 1266 m2, roughly 14.000 ft2.
The house is pushed to the end of the land, leaving open space for a garden. The area we see today is actually smaller than the original plan, due to the expansion of the street and other works.
There are two entrances at the level of the street with a grand sitting and dining room, a smoking lounge, a hall and two rooms on the ground floor.
The first floor houses the family bedrooms. The second floor was destined for the servants. The semi-basement houses the kitchen and a storage room.
I also read that the house has about 12 rooms and 10 bathrooms.
Casa Vicens was built using bricks, tiles and iron. The color composition of its checkerboard theme works in perfect harmony with the iron elements such as the gate, the lamps and the pots.
It features different gables and buttresses and the design tends to go outwards in the upper stories.
The cherub like figures sitting on the edge of the small balcony that faces the street add a touch of whimsy and elegance.
Inside, the ceiling showcases different finishes, like the cherry branches between the wooden beams in the dining room.
The dome painting in the sitting room gives you the impression of looking through a glass dome, to the sky.
The smoking lounge surprises us with stalactite-like formations hanging from it, decorated with cherries and finished with an impressive lamp with Arabic characters.
The dining room, the most decorated in the house, is a showcase of figures from nature like birds and vines.
The selling of Casa Vicens
Mr. Manuel Vicens y Montaner, owner of the land received his finished house in 1888. The Vicens family sold it to Dr. Antonio Jover in 1899; he’s the grandfather of the current owners.
In 1924 Dr. Jover decided to make Casa Vicens his permanent residency rather than a holiday home.
From then on, the house has undergone several alterations, always respecting the original design as much as possible, once even consulting with Gaudí himself to approve the changes.
The house has been restored twice, first in 1962 with Miss Fabiola Jover González as the owner and in 2004 in charge of Mr. Ignacio Herrero Jover.
It was Mr. Herrero Jover who declared in September 2011 that the house was for sale after debating with the family if anybody wanted to keep it and maybe open it to the public.
Mr. Herrero stated that the house is pretty, but not very comfortable and that converting it into a museum would demand full time attention, which the family would be unable to provide.
The agency Altadicion is in charge of the sale of the property. I read in some sources that the asking price goes from 27 to 35 million Euro.
It’s curious that the website is in English, Arab, Japanese, Russian and Chinese… not in Spanish or Catalan.
Though there is more information about the house in the website, there’s very little about the different areas of the house, but I guess that’s information that will be given to the buyer confidentially.
The website also features floorplans, pictures and general information, as well as some information about Gaudí and his work.
The first time I saw pictures of Casa Vicens I thought for sure whoever lived there had to be kind of crazy. It is very ornamented and very exuberant and for some, quite overwhelming.
But I can’t say that if I had the money, I wouldn’t buy it.
Though not the most important work of Gaudí, and certainly not his most representative, Casa Vicens is like a little fairy tale castle in the middle of Barcelona.
Did you know about Casa Vicens before? Did you stumble upon it when planning a trip to Barcelona?
What do you think of it after seeing the pictures? Would you buy it?
Would you live there?
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According to this article from February 11th, 2014, the house was sold to a bank this month, for 30 million Euros. The bank intends to open it up as a museum, which to me, is fantastic news!