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Casa Fernández y Andrés|
"Casa Botines", León (1891-1892)
The entrance to the basement is at the rear of the building. The main floor could be reached from the basement by a stairway in the center of the floor and a freight elevator. Currently, two circular glass elevators provide access to the entire building from top to bottom.
The windows, which are smaller at the top in order to better distribute light, and to differentiate the ground and main floors from the rental floors, are alike on all four facades. Highlights include lobed window arches and the colorful images of the stained-glass windows. Other elements that mark the different areas include continuous moldings that mark the transition from the basement to the ground floor, the ground floor to the main floor, and the main floor to the upper floors. These moldings also emphasize the building's horizontal aspect.
The original plan designed by the Catalan architect does not vary much from the edifice which can be seen today. There were no problems with the owners and construction was completed in just 10 months.
Although this may lead one to believe that the Casa Botines was Gaudí's least conflictive work, this was not so. In this case, problems arose in Gaudí's relationship with the people of Leon. Some technicians in the area did not approve of Gaudí's use of foundations based on the traditional continuous lintels made in Catalonia. In Leon, the resistant soil layer lies at a certain depth, and they considered the most suitable method to be sunken piles.
At that time, the cathedral of Leon was being restored, and Gaudí had the opportunity to study its foundations. There, he observed that, as was the case of a Roman building which at that time still survived, the method used was the continuous lintel, although wider to provide a greater support surface. This is why he decided to use that system.
On the other hand, the people of Leon did not appreciate that most of Gaudí's collaborators were Catalans.
All it took for rumors to start running rampant was for the technicians to criticize the foundations and for people to see some boards that propped up the consoles of the towers, and children shouted in the street that "the Casa Botines is falling down."
Gaudí, indignant, quieted the gossip of the technicians by asking for the technical reports that stated that the house would fall down, so he could place them in the vestibule of the building where everybody could see them. No differential settling or cracks of any type have been found to date. This shows the quality of the foundations selected by Gaudí.
Regarding the structure of the edifice, we should mention the basement and the ground floor, where Gaudí first used the free or flexible support; twenty-eight cast iron pillars, 20 centimeters in diameter, support metallic summers which, in turn, support I-profiles and Catalan vaults built from wrought iron. Though this was a very innovative system, it was different from later flexible support systems in that the facades of the Casa Botines were still weight-bearing walls.
The remaining floors are supported with the typical weight-bearing walls, which are in turn supported by the summers of the ground floor. These walls also determine the interior distribution of the flats.
The roof, as stated above, is inclined in four directions. There are six large skylights, which ventilate and provide light to the interior areas of the flats. They are covered by glass windows attached to the roof with iron joists. This roof is supported on a zigzagging wooden trellis over the attic.