This house has over a hundred years, it is located in Passeig de Gràcia Avenue in Barcelona, Spain. Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol restored it. Representing an organic style, it has oval windows in the front and as you enter, the lines of the staircase have a distinct natural course.
By means of evolution, nature has “optimize” its creation; for example bones are lightweight and strong, they are narrower at the center where forces only act in tension or compression and wider at the ends were they are subject to moments.
In nature, form and function combine in one. As I toured the house I observed that the organic shapes were not only visually appealing but also functional. Nature, as the central theme, was spread all across the house. From the second floor and up, the window frames had vents that resembled the gills of a fish.
The tour guide explained that these vents were all over the house and that the ventilation of every room was “connected” to the adjacent rooms by these gills/vents. Aside from recreating the respiratory system of a fish, it was actually recreating the respiratory system of the house.
Barcelona experiences very warm summers and cold winters, and closing or opening these gills, depending on the season, helped to maintain a good temperature. Remember that at that time HVAC units were not around.
If you looked up from one of the first floor interior patios you would see that the windows were all of the same size and that the color of the wall was the same from top to bottom. Then, as you went upstairs (that were on the side of the patio) you noticed that the size of the windows changed from floor to floor. The lowest floor had bigger windows because it needed more sun, and as you went up the windows were smaller. You can ask, why the windows looked the same dimension? Cleverly, the frames of the windows were bigger thus creating the perception, from the first floor, that all were of the same size. Suddenly, you noticed that the intensity in the color of the wall was changing between floors. The color took into account the gradient (the change in the amount) of sunlight to create the visual effect that the whole wall was of the same blue color.
I don’t have to mention that all these details and others impressed me, like the roof that had a room where you could line dry clothes even when raining, chimneys that were just part of a piece of art that involved recycled materials, and much more.
During my stay I visited other houses designed by Gaudí. They shared the same design principles. Obviously nature was his inspiration, but did he follow any method? Most of these houses were built without blueprints. What was his ultimate goal; make a functional or beautiful house, or both? How is it that this house design is functional but at the same time aesthetic pleasing and environmental friendly?
Today, many products and artifacts lack of that blend that fuse aesthetics and functionality. What is really the motivation behind product design today?
Note: First posted in personal web page August 3, 2010