In the last post, I shared a beautiful example of a building facade with a sgraffito pattern. If you are familiar with the dimensional or “embossed” stencil method, it appears as if a giant stencil was placed over the side of the building and a layer of thick plaster was troweled through to create a raised image. Sgraffito is actually a process where a wet layer of plaster is placed over a contrasting color of plaster, the design is transferred, and the plaster is carved (or scratched) back to reveal the first layer in the shape of the design. You will find examples of the sgraffito method of decoration used extensively in Italy and other European cities, as well as Morocco. I have posted Italian examples of sgraffito here before, and many beautiful examples from Marrakech as well. I have even tried to reproduce the look of Sgraffito with our Modello patterns.
In Barcelona it was used quite a bit in the older Gothic Quarter.
Alas, this labor intensive means of decoration has become something of a lost art.
The common use of sgraffito may have had its last swan song at the beginning of the 20th century in the Eixample district of Barcelona, as they were constructing the beautifully detailed buildings that grace this area.
According to our guide on a recent tour there, at that time time labor was cheap and highly skilled craftsman were plentiful, so sgraffito was a “cheap” alternative to more expensive stone facades.
We can be thankful for this today, as the Modernisme movement of Catalunya has left us this gift in the city of Barcelona.
Some of the most stunning examples of Sgraffito can be found at Casa Amatllar, on the “Block of Discord”, right next to Gaudi’s Casa Batlló. This beautiful space, built by architect Puig i Cadafalch has just recently been opened to the public for tours. The photos above show just the open entrance area that anyone can walk into from the street. I unfortunately MISSED the opening time for the tour, but two of the ladies on our group were lucky enough to join a guided tour of the building and IT IS AMAZING with all the walls and ceilings FULL of decorative sgraffito (they sneaked some pics!). They will be closing it down again in a couple of months for a full renovation, but I can guarantee that this is the first place I will try to visit when I return to Barcelona!
Last image via flickr