ISTANBUL: Anadol’s NFT / AI data sculpture ‘Casa Batllo: Living Architecture’ transfers Gaudi’s legacy into the heritage of tomorrow and establishes its place in the digital space
Turkish American media artist Refik Anadol has carried out a new monumental generative artwork inspired by the iconic façade of Casa Batllo, which is a masterpiece building designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi in the center of Barcelona. “Casa Batllo: Living Architecture,” which is now on display as an installation at Rockefeller Plaza in New York, will be presented as a facade mapping projection in Barcelona and will be auctioned by Christie’s as a non-fungible token (NFT).
Casa Batllo was actually built as a classical building without any recognizable characteristics in 1877. Bought by Joseph Batllo in 1903, the fate of the building changed afterward. The Batllo family, who was very well known in Barcelona for their contribution to the textile industry, purchased the house only for its central location.
In 1904, Joseph Batllo hired Gaudi, one of the greatest architects of all time, to redesign his home in total creative freedom. He and his wife were open to all new ideas as they want to have a house which has no other similar. Gaudi conceived the house with artistic maturity and convinced the family a renovation of the house would be sufficient instead of tearing it down. After Gaudi completed the renovation and refurbishment of the building, it could be identified as an Art Nouveau icon and his creative peak.
Casa Batllo is a eulogy for happiness, a marine-inspired canvas, and an oneiric world that evokes nature and fantasy. The building’s façade is a gateway to this symbolic universe. The mosaic decorations of the façade evoke the feeling of a surface of a lake with water lilies, like in a Claude Monet painting. And the protruding balconies and oval windows look like they were made from skulls and bones. Besides, the arched roof of the building is designed like a dragon spine.
The spectacular building makes passersby stop to look at it at any time of the day. Exuberant and marine, it also contains involuntary sculptures, recycled materials and decontextualized objects Gaudi turned into art.
In 2002, the house opened its doors to the public. People were allowed to visit the noble floor. And in 2005, Casa Batllo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Architects of the future
Anadol’s latest artwork “Casa Batllo: Living Architecture” is the culmination of the collaboration between Casa Batllo and the artist. A year ago, Casa Batllo initiated its new immersive tour of Gaudi’s masterpiece. Conceived as a journey with an exclusive soundtrack, audio story, installations and digital rooms, the tour aimed to redefine the museum experience and attract new and younger audiences worldwide.
For the museum tour’s grand finale, Casa Batllo commissioned Anadol for the piece “In the Mind of Gaudi.” This pioneering work presents the world’s first real 360-degree experience in a six-sided LED cube. Set up permanently in the building’s basement through artificial intelligence (AI) and visual sculpting, the work invites people to a myth of architecture from the Catalan architect’s mind.
As the peak of Anadol’s and Casa Batllo’s collaboration, “Casa Batllo: Living Architecture” is also presented as a dynamic NFT / AI data sculpture reimagining the iconic Gaudi building by using real-time data from the facade.
The monumental and multisensory experience started to be seen as a public art experience in real life at the Rockefeller Plaza on April 30, when Christie’s “20th / 21st Century Marquee Week” exhibition began. It will remain on display through May 13.
The work then will be presented as an audiovisual performance projected on the facade of Casa Batllo on May 7.
“Casa Batllo: Living Architecture,” then, will be auctioned off as an NFT at Rockefeller Plaza at the “21st Century Evening Sale,” the five-day series of Christie’s “Spring Marquee Week” sales. The artwork is estimated to fetch $1 million – $2 million as the only NFT Christie’s will auction that week alongside works by Monet, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Banksy and Vincent Van Gogh. The auction will be live-streamed to viewers worldwide on christies.com on the date of the sale. The artwork is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site to take the form of a living, constantly changing NFT by using climate data from the city collected in real time.
“Casa Batllo: Living Architecture” brings the Gaudi building facade to the forefront in the cultural collective memory as well as establishing its place in the digital space in the historic sale.
Gary Gautier, Casa Batllo’s manager, reflected on choosing Refik Anadol to propel Gaudi’s legacy into the heritage of tomorrow: “Casa Batllo’s mission is to amplify Gaudi’s magic, and Refik Anadol is the perfect fellow traveler for this journey. His work resides between art and technology, expands the possibilities of architecture, and brings a new outlook beyond space and time. Refik connects past, present and future, reminding us of the innovative, humanist and visionary Gaudi.”
Talking about the challenge of reinterpreting Gaudi’s work and principles, pioneering artist Anadol also commented saying: “Gaudi is an amazing inspiration for any creator and Casa Batllo a dream work to dive into. From its organic architecture, inspired in nature, to the smallest details on its many mosaics, it is a privilege to reinterpret such an alive legacy and bring it to the 21st century, guided by Artificial Intelligence.”
Historic auction for neurodiversity
Casa Batllo is committed to seeking integration and diversity of workers. Since the beginning of 2021, it has had an entire neurodivergent visitor care team of 50+ people with autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, etc., thanks to the strategic alliance with social organization Specialisterne. Therefore, the artist will donate a portion of proceeds from the auction to two local institutions specialized in comprehensive care and family support for people with neurodivergence: Aprenem Autisme Association and Adana Foundation. Aprenem has an annual attendance of more than 6,000 people working toward the inclusion of people with autism through a family care program, and the foundation offers ongoing treatment to more than 900 children and young adults, from early diagnosis to therapeutic plans.
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