While in Barcelona, most of us would have definitely heard of or visited the major works of the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. Among all the greatest works of architecture found in the city, an architectural creation by Gaudí lies tucked away in a popular and busy neighbourhood of Passeig de Gràcia. Gaudí’s Casa Batlló was created between 1904 and 1906 and was built for industrialist Josep Batlló.
Today, the house is not just a major tourist attraction, but also offers an immersive experience with the most advanced Audio-Visual technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Augmented Reality (AR) to transform this work in Modernism into an unforgettable multi-sensorial experience that offers an insight into the mind of architect Antoni Gaudí.
In a fireside chat at the AVIXA Xchange Live booth at ISE, experts, Amilcar Vargas, World Heritage Manager, Casa Batlló and Maria Bernat, Digital Strategist Manager, spoke to @Rodrigo Casassus Coke, CTS, Snr. Director of Development - Latin America & Caribbean- AVIXA about the salient features of the project.
During this insightful discussion, they elaborated on how the team went about amplifying the magic of the legacy of Antoni Gaudí and the challenges of integrating technologies in a World Heritage Site.
Here are highlights of the chat that gives us a peek into behind-the scenes of an immersive and awe- inspiring space, worth visiting while in Barcelona.
The idea that the team had was to make the experience visually enriching for the visitors. So irrespective of where the visitor came from, which language they spoke/understood, the immersive experience had to be the same.
Genesis of the restoration:
One of the main reasons the team took on a challenge of refurbishing the house two years ago, was not just to restore it, but to build an evacuation staircase. The site had over 3000 visitors a day, using the staircase over and again, thus making the structure unsafe. But at the same time, they had to build another staircase within the building. Many artists were contacted and finally it was commissioned to a renowned Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, who produced a contemporary reinterpretation, using aluminum chains alongside the staircase which is inspired by the symbolic use of light throughout the house’s unique interior.
The project of building an evacuation staircase led the team to think about the whole user or visitor experience. That was the beginning of a series of changes and inclusions using elements, materials and technology to explain and further Gaudi’s rich legacy.
Gaudí is an architect of light, and his non-linear designs brought in natural light to every single corner. Based on that principle, he used different colours for different sides of the windows to regulate the intensity of the light from the terrace to the basement. He also transformed the house using natural materials like wrought iron, wood, stained glass, ceramic tiles and stone ornaments. The house is a living example of beauty and ergonomics coming together to create a masterpiece in every aspect – design, colours, space and light.
Technology creates a truly immersive experience:
The main inspiration behind the house is marine life. Hence when you tour the house, you will find elements of marine life everywhere, which one can even experience through AR. AV technology that is used to create an immersive experience is targeted at a digital first audience which relies heavily on tablets and mobiles. Hence these devices help tell the story in 15 different languages through AR and audio guides. 15 different languages help reach a wider audience set and make the experience come alive.
The use of augmented reality by iPads/ tablets, re-created the authentic experience, as it were in the original house. For example, some of the furniture which isn’t available now is being re-created on the AR. The turtle shell design which is part of the ceiling décor lends to AR where the visitors can see turtles floating around on the ceiling when the devices are pointed at the ceiling.
To create the immersive experience of a living house, the technology creates a very realistic 360 deg picture of the lives of the Batlló family that lived in this house, and it is very surreal.
There are framed pictures that narrate the story of the lives of the Batlló family, which is very beautifully narrated from the perspective of the erstwhile inhabitants of the house, Mrs. Batlló, lending the experience to be personalized and real. Thanks to historical archives and technology, the team was able to re-create the setting as it were in the times the family lived in this house several years ago.
Into the mind of Gaudi – The Gaudi Cube:
The house tour culminates in the Gaudi Cube which simply provides an artistic peek into Gaudi’s mind. A 3D room with six internal-walled LED screens create an immersive experience with sound, light, graphics. This room is an outstanding collaboration of raw research data containing millions of images. The three minutes of the performance inside the cube is a worthwhile experience where once the doors close, visitors lose themselves in a unique, experience that is hard to describe in words. This is a befitting grand finale of an experience which stands testimony to the fact that advanced Audio-Visual technology and great minds, can deliver an exciting, multi-sensory, world class cultural experience.
The panel spoke about the various challenges they had to encounter while making this installation a reality. This also included challenges of the pandemic, restrictions on travel, which meant that the renowned Turkish American digital artist behind this project, Refik Andol had to work remotely and then travel when the restrictions were slightly relaxed. The team had to remotely work with Andol to send heavy data files of the façade and designs of the building and interiors.
The result of this collaboration is sheer brilliance. Andol has used creativity, aesthetics, data and artificial intelligence to create a masterpiece which brings to life the intersection between human mind and technology, in a story that weaves a timeless narrative on architecture and the mind of Gaudi.
In conclusion, as per the team behind the project, the house was naturally not made for new age technology. However, the team is constantly adapting to it and is constantly working with various artists to bring in newer immersive experiences.
This is a house where inspiration lives.
Have you visited Casa Batlló while in Barcelona? Tell us about what you liked, what inspired you and what took your breath away!
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I was happy to have had the opportunity to visit this wonderful attraction, as a tourist when i was in Barcelona for ISE this year, and could Xperience the technology enabled tour and the Xperential installation. Was mesmerizing and could see some unique concepts in space design! Am sure a many of us who visited ISE this time around have had the opportunity to visit this and look forward to reading some more of unique experiences. And if you have not, and are planning to visit ISE in the coming years, do take some time out to expolore this and many other facets of Barcelona! Tagging @Debraj Dam @Vipin Verma