In the Shadow of Gaudí
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 5/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Completed by architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch in 1906, Casa Quadras is poised at the intersection of two busy thoroughfares in Barcelona, Spain. The landmark building also sits at a crossroads of style: Gothic, art nouveau, Moorish, Islamic, Vienna Secession, and Catalan modern.
Chinese and Japanese just joined the list, too. The former mansion—subsequently converted into a music museum, with only slight alterations—has now become Casa Asia, a publicly funded cultural center for the Asia-Pacific region.
By the time that project manager Judith Masana's municipal architecture crew took over, the 18,000-square-foot, five-story building needed a complete overhaul. Masana and her team brought plumbing and wiring up to code, restored the facade's mix of Gothic and plateresque styles, and undertook the heavy-duty structural work required to carve out an auditorium, a gallery, offices, and a high-tech media library.
Efforts concentrated on the ornate ground floor, where Masana removed layers of paint and grime to expose mosaic flooring, ceramic-tile wainscoting, Corinthian columns, original glass light fixtures, and a coffered painted-oak ceiling. To comply with fire and safety codes, the grand staircase was rebuilt using high-strength concrete in a design deemed consistent with the original scheme. The atrium stairwell's new stained-glass skylight was created in the same manner.
The restoration finished, the ground floor's only seemingly anachronistic object is a custom reception desk paneled in red melamine and set on a pedestal base to accommodate the unevenness of the mosaic floor. "It provided a provocative contrast to the ornamentation," says Masana. "Color is my weakness." The desk comes courtesy of Haworth, as does a majority of the furnishings.
Indeed, Casa Asia is a veritable catalog of Haworth's offerings. The Bay executive collection enjoys pride of place in the fourth-floor business center. On the same level, a 75-seat auditorium features Daniel Korb's P.O.S. Elegance system of desks and storage units. Below a peaked oak-beamed ceiling in the fifth floor's media library, System 50 task chairs pull up to a 24-foot-long communal table, actually a line of four of the company's Step tables.
Haworth's Tutti work-architecture system—modular components used to form walls, partitions, and work surfaces—also plays a major role. Entirely reconfigurable using only an allen wrench, the system saves historic elements from structural interventions.