by Devanshi ShahJun 24, 2021
Kengo Kuma and Associates has draped a stairwell of Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batlló in a cascading mesh of aluminium link chains, as part of a series of interventions by artists and designers within the iconic townhouse in Barcelona, Spain. The metal curtain's sinuous forms were inspired by the organic curves of Gaudí’s distinctive style, replicating the Catalan architect’s penchant for audacious design. Implemented for the building’s post-pandemic reopening in May 2021, the installation is part of the ongoing Casa Batlló 10D Experience program, featuring 2,000 sqm of never seen before spaces that craft a vivid, multisensory journey into Gaudí’s mind through the intersection of technology, art, and design. Occupying one of the structure’s atriums, and functioning as the primary vertical circulation core for the 10D Experience, Kengo Kuma’s shimmering curtain adds motion and volume to the space, through a layered design that creates a play of light and texture.
Vertically spanning the building’s eight floors, the installation forms a tantalising experience - taking up the role of an undulating second skin that is perfectly in sync with Gaudí’s Art Nouveau structural expression. Kuma’s intervention is composed of individual aluminium chain link strands, strung from the inclined ceilings of the stairwell and the undersides of the floating stairs themselves. The Japanese architect used nearly 164,000 metres of anodised aluminium links in the project that were supplied by Spanish metal art firm, Kriskadecor. In essence, the design pays homage to the building’s biomorphic geometries in abstract monochrome, eschewing the vibrant use of colour that is invariably linked to Casa Batlló's interior design
As Casa Batlló is a tribute to the light of the Mediterranean, the immersive installation honours Gaudí’s own unique treatment of light, through Kuma’s knack for innovative material applications. At the top, the chain links are a lighter tone of grey, that steadily grows darker on moving further down towards the basement where they gradually turn a shade of black, resembling the old coal bunkers in the home’s subterranean level.
This gradient between light and dark is meant to echo the gradual reduction of illumination on moving away from the sky, establishing an entrancing dichotomy. Kuma mentions in an official statement, "With their meticulous materiality, the aluminium link chains catch the light, as if they were fishing nets, and show it to us in all its forms: brightness, silhouettes, shadows. This way, by omitting the use of any other materials, and erasing the presence of this blind box and its staircase using these chains, we are able to speak of light and light only.”
To further highlight the qualities of light within the space, Kuma enlisted the expertise of reputed Italian lighting designer, Mario Nanni, of Viabizzuno. Among other lighting design interventions within the stairwell, this collaboration notably resulted in the use of LED strips to line the stairway. While accentuating the transparency of the chain links, these simultaneously bathe the space in an aura that enhances its otherworldly charm.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside Gaudí’s other masterpieces such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Milà, Casa Batlló underwent an extensive façade restoration back in 2019. The new 10D Experience within the renovated structure has been in the works for nearly six years now, currently hosting exhibits within the basement of the townhouse. Highlights of the program include the Gaudí Cube by Turkish new media artist, Refik Anadol, said to be the world’s largest AI-generated repository of digital material on Gaudí, along with the Gaudí Dôme by Miguel Alonso, and a 13-ton black marble staircase by London-based firm Ancient & Modern - Chesneys Architectural. These new interventions and showcases continue Casa Batlló’s 140-year journey of reinvention into the Information Age while celebrating the genius of Catalonia's most revered architect.