icons at risk

La Ricarda

Architect: Antonio Bonet Castellana
Year of completion: 1949-1963
Location: El Prat de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain

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Latest update 20 December 2019

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La Ricarda

Designed by the architect Antonio Bonet Castellana, through a long process (1949-1963), and in close collaboration with the owners, Mr. Ricardo Gomis and his wife Mrs. Inés Bertrand, the Gomis House, better known as La Ricarda, is perhaps the most emblematic example of rationalist architecture in Catalonia. It had to fit the necessities of a large family, combining private and common areas, plus a large living room that could be used as a concert hall. The house is located in the middle of a pine grove by the sea and near the city of Barcelona. A single module, 8,80 x 8,80 m., in which four slender steel pillars sustain a heavy wide vault, develops the architectural programme on ground floor level, house and garden working as a unit and in permanent dialogue. Bonet also designed furniture and fittings as the culmination of an entire creative process.

Architectural highlights

A floating undulating roof – as an immense extended porch – was the first image of what would develop into a house underneath. An independent pavilion module for the parents – a self contained apartment – away from the children's pavilion, each member in the family having his/her own private room. And then common spaces to share in between. La Ricarda is still the property of the Gomis Bertrand family. The house keeps all the original furniture and fittings, colours, materials and the garden design. Every item is still placed where architect and owner had decided. The children who grew up with the house are now guiding the visitors around. In spite of the territorial aggression through the enlargement of Barcelona International Airport, the house has not only kept its warmth and style, but is fully alive instilling all the original energy.

Lecture on La Ricarda by architect Fernando Alvarez Prozorovich at the 3rd International Iconic Houses Conference in Barcelona, 25 November 2014 (in Spanish).

A 1950s Catalan gem under threat from an encroaching airport and suburban sprawl

Set in the La Ricarda estate of north-eastern Spain, Casa Gomis is a serenely beautiful modernist house designed by the architect Antonio Bonet Castellana. But the woodland where it stands is sandwiched between Barcelona airport and Mediterranean Sea, both of which are expanding so rapidly that they threaten its future existence.

According to Marita Gomis, who showed us around the house which her parents commissioned, even leading the way to the undulating roof via a ladder, the building was a ‘long and exciting creative adventure’ for both the architect Bonet (1913-1989) and his clients, Ricardo Gomis Serdañons (1910-1993) and Inés Bertrand Mata (1915-1992).

A cultural refuge in Franco’s Spain
The adventure began around 1949 with a first design completed in 1950. A second was finished in 1953, and construction began in mid-1957. The Gomis family came to live in the house early in 1962, when it was still unfinished. The final documents are dated February 1963.

Bonet was living in Buenos Aires at the time, thousands of miles away from Barcelona. Francoist Spain was then isolated from anything that might mean open connection and interaction with other cultures.

Nevertheless, the collaboration between architect and clients somehow resulted in an ideal project, where simple and harmonious details were as important as the whole design. Furthermore, in the last 15 years of Franco’s Spain, Ricardo Gomis made his house a haven for Catalan intellectuals and artists and their work.

Present dangers
The house remains the property of the Gomis Bertrand Family, which is dedicated to preserving it in its original state. But it is in danger of falling victim not only by burgeoning developments, but also by the simple passage of time. Artisans built the house, and very few craftsmen nowadays have the skills to repair the wear and tear caused by 50 years’ exposure to the elements. The technical challenges are huge, because the architecture was highly experimental – think for example of four thin iron pillars supporting a heavy vault, in an aggressively humid climate.

Meanwhile the surrounding environment poses an even greater threat. In the 1950s, Barcelona Airport was small and far away. But the airport’s third runway constructed in 2004 is no more than 400 metres from the house. Pollution of various sorts is having an effect, while airport and other infrastructures around Barcelona keep expanding, and engulfing the surrounding nature.

Supporters needed
Under these circumstances, what future prospects are there for Casa Gomis? Since its future is so uncertain, Iconic Houses believes that it is essential to establish a dialogue with the airport authorities, and with the municipality. Hopefully, prominent Spanish architects can join forces with the Gomis Bertrand family in order to ensure the house’s survival in the future.

Meanwhile, the house’s custodians welcome visitors, and any contributions towards the maintenance of this unique Catalan monument.

For further information, email Marita Gomis Bertrand.

Or visit the Facebook page Antonio Bonet Castellana maintained by his daughter Victoria Bonet Martí.

Architect Fernando Alvarez Prozorovich, who is involved with the restoration of La Ricarda since 1996, gave a statement about La Ricarda at the 3rd International Iconic Houses Conference at La Pedrera in Barcelona, 25 November 2014.

Photo credits slideshow: Michele Curel.

News Archive

Exhibition at Lawrence & Clark – Chicago, 12 - 26 October 2019
La Ricarda:An Architectural and Cultural Project

MAS Context Fall Talks Marita Gomis, 14 October 2019
Video presentation Marita Gomis at Graham Foundation - Chicago

MAS Context, October 2019
An article with memories of the Gomis Bertrand Family, and Victoria Bonet

La Ricarda

Antonio Bonet Castellana

1949-63, Spain