Casa de los Botines

DSC00358

I’d heard of Gaudí before going to Spain but had no idea what his buildings looked like. so much so that when we walked past the back of this interesting building in León it didn’t occur to me it might be one of his — even though I knew he’d designed one that stood somewhere within the old city walls near-about where we were wandering. when we saw the Palacio Episcopal in Astorga I began to suspect we might have passed what I now know is the Casa de los Botines in León and after seeing pictures of it I know we did, even if it was just the back side.

after he completed of the Palacio Episcopal in Astorga (about which more later, once we’ve made it to Astorga), businessmen Simón Fernández and Mariano Andrés commissioned Gaudí to design a multi-use structure — as a warehouse and department store on the ground floor with residential space on the three floors above. in a notable contrast to surrounding buildings, Gaudí designed the Casa de los Botines in a neo-gothic style with a distinct medieval air to it, complete with turrets on the four corners and a kind of moat on two sides that allows sunlight and ventilation into the basement. a sculpture of St. George slaying the dragon stands watch over the main entrance. the small granite blocks of the facade resemble those used in the Palacio Episcopal (probably due to their local source), though that did not have six skylights to illuminate the attic. one of the characteristics I found more remarkable is how the size of the windows diminishes with each floor; the shape remains the same but the smaller width emphasizes the size and design of the building.

Gaudí signed off on plans the last day of 1891 and preparations for the building began in January of 1892 after the property owners won a dispute with the municipal government over use of the property. during the project, Gaudí faced opposition from local engineers who believed the design for his foundation — a continuous base like the one found in the city’s cathedral — completely inappropriate for local conditions. they insisted that pilotis were necessary, which would require excavating much deeper than Gaudí envisioned. when they could not produce persuasive proof of the necessity of their plan Gaudí went ahead with his; because of this people feared the building would collapse on itself upon completion. after waiting with bated breath (or not) during the 10 months of construction, Gaudí was vindicated and his building did not collapse. the building officially opened in November of 1894.

inside the building, Gaudí left much of the floor plan open by transferring weight to internal pillars and the exterior walls. when purchased by a bank in 1929, several of the interior pillars were removed. when the Caja España obtained the property, they renovated the building back to Gaudí‘s plans and re-installed the removed pillars. during restorations in the 1950s, workers discovered a tube of lead concealed under the statue of St. George that included original plans signed by Gaudí, as well as press clippings from the time of construction. today, as I mentioned, it’s offices for a bank.

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.