Casa Batlló’s Heritage Engagement in Times of Covid-19

To respond to the pandemic, Casa Batlló's team produced three videos with the goal of both sharing culture and heritage and providing information to the public.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the world, including museums and heritage sites. The declaration of the State of Alarm in Spain supposed the closure of all the museums and heritage properties on March 13th and the beginning of the quarantine. This has been the biggest challenge ever lived in Casa Batlló since it was opened to the public in 2002.

Casa Batlló was the former residence of the Batlló Family, built by Gaudí between 1904 and 1906 following the Catalan Modernist Style. Inspired by nature, the architect put in Casa Batlló innovation and tradition in a singular and unique composition that, until 2019, surprised over one million visitors per year.

To respond to the lockdown, the management established teams. One team focused on improving online cultural content. Working remotely, this creative team swiftly developed a strategy, including research and idea organization, to continue inspiring people with Casa Batlló’s natural beauty.

Three videos

Among the online materials, three videos were outstanding and totally related to three milestones lived during the three-month lockdown: First, the Saint George Day, day of Catalonia; second, the release of the unique 360 degrees video tour of Casa Batlló and, third, the very expected reopening with the adaptations to the new normal.

April 23rd is Saint George’s Day, the day of Catalonia, the most important celebration for Catalan people. It is an intangible heritage tradition Casa Batlló has celebrated since 2016 with a special decoration of its balconies with roses. This decoration became a reference in the city of Barcelona. Thousands of people are expected to gather on the façade to witness this beautiful spectacle that combines architecture and regional traditions creatively and innovatively. Due to the lockdown this year, decorating Casa Batlló’s balconies was impossible. Still, we developed a call to action to encourage Catalan people to celebrate Saint George by decorating their balconies with roses. “Sant Jordi-More love than ever” was the name of the video. The reply from the people was outstanding, and thousands of families shared their decorated balconies on social media using the hashtag #TotsFemSantJordi (We all do Saint George). After the overwhelming reception, we edited a thank-you video named “Sant Jordi 2020-Thank you” and added hundreds of images and short videos created by the participants.

The second video was named “Casa Batlló 360 Experience” and is more than a guided tour of this marine-nature-inspired house, it is an immersive experience available in four languages: Catalan, Spanish, English and Chinese. The immersive technology allowed people to explore the interior of Casa Batlló at their own pace and pay attention to the details they wanted. This video became very popular with children and youth due to the imaginative and evocative narrative put in the storytelling. This material was an excellent complement to the Standard Virtual Tour. The tour also helped people to contextualize the Mediterranean location and the urban/natural environment of Casa Batlló, part of the inspiration that Antoni Gaudí had more than a hundred years ago.

The third and last video, “We are back“, was released a few weeks before the end of the lockdown, and its planning started when the Spanish government announced the confinement plan. Our reopening, scheduled for July 1st, was the most expected milestone during this hard process, and we wanted to share it with a video that had to be rigorous and clear about the hygienic and protection measures but, at the same time, to transmit confidence and willingness to come to visit this World Heritage site. With that in mind, we gathered updated information for the reopening measures from UNESCO, its advisory bodies and related institutions such as ICOM, ICCROM and ICOMOS, from the World Health Organisation and the National and Regional Health and Heritage-related institutions. As a result, we created storytelling that presented COVID-19 as a challenge for the entire Casa Batlló team. The video and all communication materials, including signage, logos, mask design and safety elements, were inspired by the shapes and colours of Casa Batlló to create that inspirational and aesthetically outstanding environment that the house has.

The mandatory measures were to maintain social distance and use facemasks and disinfectant gel, but Casa Batlló went further and incorporated other state-of-the-art devices. These innovations included temperature control for visitors, the installation of a real-time information panel at the entrance, a disinfectant mat at the museum entrance, disinfection of the video guide and headphones using ultraviolet light. In addition, in the interior, we included air cleaning with the bipolar cold plasma ionization system, HEPA filters, and increased cleaning of all surfaces in contact with visitors.

Overall, the challenge of adapting the visit to the online platforms and the physical visit to the new normal has been a change of paradigm and an opportunity to improve our services, the satisfaction of the physical and virtual visitors and above all, to strengthen the safeguard of the Outstanding Universal Value of this Work of Antoni Gaudí.

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