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Icon at Risk: Casa Gomis / La Ricarda
Photos Michele Curel
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.
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.
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 Antonio Bonet Castellana’s Facebook page maintained by his daughter Victoria Bonet Martí.
Architect Fernando Alvarez Prozorovich who is involved with the restoration of La Ricarda since 1996 gave this statement about La Ricarda at the 3rd Iconic Houses Conference at La Pedrera in Barcelona, 25 November 2014.