Antoni Gaudí's first important commission as a young architect began in 1883 and finished in 1889. For this house Gaudí still used his traditional architect's tools, particularly the T square. The historical eclecticism (that is, borrowing freely from past architectural styles around the world) of the early Art Nouveau movement is evident in the Orientalist themes and Mudejar (Moorish-inspired) motifs lavished throughout the design. The client, Don Manuel Vicens Montaner, owned a brick and tile factory–-which explains the lavish use of the green and yellow ceramic tiles, in checkerboard and floral patterns, that animate the facade. (Casa Vicens was in fact the first polychromatic facade to appear in Barcelona.) The chemaro palm leaves decorating the gate and surrounding fence are thought to be the work of Gaudí's assistant Francesc Berenguer; the comic iron lizards and bats oozing off the facade are Gaudí's playful version of the Gothic gargoyle.
In 1900 the house was sold
to Antonio Jover, a prominent local doctor, and remained in the family until 2014, when it was sold to the Andorra-based MoraBank; the bank established a foundation to preserve this remarkable historic property, and opened it to the public in 2016. The interior is even more surprising than the outside, with its trompe-l'oeil birds painted on the walls and intricately carved ceilings; the fantasmic Moorish design and cupola in the little smoking alcove on the main floor is enough to make you wonder what folks back then were putting in their pipes. In any case, it is a must-visit.
Gaudi's second commission, built in 1885, was in the little town of Comillas in Santander, for the Marquès de Comillas, Antonio López y López, a shipping magnate and the most powerful man of his time. Not surprisingly, the two houses bear a striking resemblance to each other.