Most architecture and design buffs visiting Barcelona in search of Gaudi masterpieces tend to concentrate — and appropriately so — on the Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell and Palau Guell. Then there’s the posh Eixample district where Casa Battlo, Casa Mila and Casa Calvet reign.
By the time they’ve done six Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, most tourists are pretty much Gaudi-ed out and ready to shop for souvenirs before flying out of El Prat International Airport. I’m almost sure the Bellesguard, which is also known as Casa Figueras, never made it on to their sightseeing checklist from Day 1.
NOT YOUR REGULAR GAUDI
But for those seeking something off the tourist track but very much worth including in it, the 20-minute drive out of the city center towards Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, one of the most expensive residential districts of Barcelona. Here, an unfinished Gaudi manor, built between 1900 and 1909, sits modestly and yet majestically amidst historic surroundings. The home of the last Count of Barcelona stood here in 1408, and it was also once hosted the home of Pope Benedict VIII.
The current structure designed by Gaudi dates to the turn of the 20th century and today it’s surrounded by an atmosphere of ordinary affluence. There are schools within walking distance and from the top terrace you see apartments with real people living in them rather than tourists with suitcases living a Barcelona life in their Air BnBs.
I use the term “modest” because this is how it initially seems. The layout is simple and even the decor is not as intricate as other Gaudi works. However, followers of modernist architecture like to describe the Torre Bellesguard as one of Gaudi’s most complex works.
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Bellesguard too was until quite recently a private family home. The building itself is small by millionaire standards and for a Gaudi design, it has a small foyer. Nevertheless you know it’s special. A visit to this building, now empty of family possessions, is akin to unwrapping a gift as one climbs up all kinds of stairs — some fancy and spacious and others so narrow you can barely squeeze through — to get the complete feeling of this incomplete Gaudi.
The grandmother lived on the second floor and when I visited, the room was still under renovation and not open for visits. In fact, none of the bedrooms were open for visits. This was unfortunate as I was of course incredibly curious as to what a Gaudi bedroom looked like.
THE BEST OF THE BELLESGUARD
Fortunately, some of the best parts of the building are saved for the last. If you can do the climb up to the very top via the narrow staircase mentioned previously. At the very top is a smoking room that opens up to the most amazing views. It’s bereft of furniture now so one can only imagine how beautiful it once must have been. However nevertheless this room is full of charm. So much charm, in fact, that I ended up sitting on the ledge of the terrace imagining a life once well lived.
This is still not the last part either. Nor the best. Adjacent to the smoking room is a music room right under the Bellesguard roof that is created to resemble a dragon’s face. It’s the unfinished part of the building so all you can see are bricks and the magnificent structure that Gaudi originally envisioned before getting into an argument with the owners. The acoustics are amazing too.
Put the Torre Bellesguard on your list now because it’s just been opened for visits, as well as for weddings and events.