Visiting La Ricarda for the first time is a memorable experience: the path that leads to the house, the tinted glass box that welcomes you in the entrance, the expansive living room with its custom-designed furniture, the repetitive vaults, the views towards the landscape and pine trees, the colorful glass bricks and the light in the corridor that leads to the children’s bedrooms, the blue tiles in the kitchen, the many other thoughtful details that one finds across the house…. The outstanding effort by the Gomis Bertrand family to preserve the house and the significant cultural role it played allows even the casual visitor to realize that entering La Ricarda is entering a carefully considered home and a lifestyle where family and culture were central.
Coinciding with the exhibition La Ricarda: An Architectural and Cultural Project, organized by MAS Context and curated by Iker Gil, we asked several members of the Gomis Bertrand family and Victoria Bonet, daughter of the architect Antonio Bonet Castellana, to share their memories growing up in the house and the time they spent there.
The black and white photographs that accompany this piece were taken by Inés Bertrand Mata (1915-1992) who, along with her husband Ricardo Gomis Serdañons (1910-1993), commissioned Antonio Bonet Castellana (1913-1989) to design the house.
We are very thankful to all of them for the generosity of sharing their memories and personal affiliations with this remarkable house.
Memories by Marita Gomis Bertrand (b. 1948)
To talk about the house La Ricarda is to talk about the history of a family, the history of a creation that spans a long time, and also, the history of a friendship.
- History of a family.
The history of the Gomis Bertrand family, the one formed by Inés Bertrand Mata (1915-1992) and Ricardo Gomis Serdañons (1910-1993) who were married in 1944 and thought about building a house for them and their children that could express their lifestyle.
- History of a creation that spans a long time.
In 1949, thanks to Joan Prats, who was a friend of the Gomis and the Bonet, there is a first meeting between Antonio Bonet Castellana (1913-1989), who was living in Argentina at the time, and the Gomis-Bertrand family.
The certificate of occupancy for the house would not arrive until February of 1963.
A three-way collaboration from the beginning.
Above all, the dream of a project despite the thousands of kilometers that separate Barcelona from Buenos Aires.
- History of a friendship.
A consequence of the relationship and great mutual understanding that develops between all three of them. Ana María Martí, the wife of Antonio Bonet, will join them.
- About the name La Ricarda
It is the name of the lagoon located in the old delta of the Llobregat River, south of Barcelona along the Mediterranean Sea. Until the end of the nineteenth century, when our great-grandfather Manuel Bertrand Salsas (1848-1911) bought the property, it was an area of unhealthy marshland. La Ricarda then becomes used for agriculture and livestock, and above all, it becomes a place of reference for our mother and her family.
1. Design and Construction
The “New House” (a 1953 project) appears in our memory around 1955 or 1956. Our first memories are a series of pegs driven into the sand, ropes that connect them defining spaces, and our parents explaining what each space will become.
There wasn’t a path to arrive to the future home. We would walk over a bed of sand covered in pine needles, between the pine trees that my great-grandfather had planted to stabilize the sand dunes close to the beach. The continuous walking on the same area finally created a path that was also used to bring all the construction materials.
The ground floor of the house was developed in dialogue with the surrounding landscape, emerging very isolated, “in the middle of nowhere,” hidden between the pine trees and invisible from a distance.
There weren’t any other neighbors except for the other family homes, all at a distance from ours. The beach was enormous and mostly empty. And the future Barcelona airport was a small airfield, used by propeller planes, and where we would ride our bikes on the runways (!!!).
Every Sunday we would go to La Ricarda. And each Sunday, since the start of construction in mid 1957, we would go to see the “New House.” We wanted to contribute and lay bricks, but they didn’t allow us. However, we watered the pine trees, we packed the sand, and we did other smaller tasks that we could do as children.
The house is our parents’ project. But they also made sure to get us involved not only as listeners but as actors. For example, making the selection of the photos that were going to cover the doors of the small closets hanging in our bedrooms. Joaquim Gomis, our beloved uncle, had created a series of photos of the nearby vegetation. We had to select three photos and decide which photo would go in which bedroom. The decision was ours.
There were some difficulties—a few comments we remember and what is registered in the letters. Difficulties created by a construction that was so different from the typical one in those days in Spain, with the architect on another continent, with modes of communication that are not comparable with current ones, and the lack of prefabricated elements. But seldom were we aware of them because our parents always focused on the positive aspects of the project.
There are many photographs of our mother, with her Rolleiflex around her neck, documenting the progress of the construction of the house. Unlike the photographs taken by Joaquim Gomis so that Antonio Bonet could follow the progress of the construction from a distance, in the photos by Inés Bertrand there is always a human presence: us and other family members. Children and house, growing together.
Around the fall of 1961, the house of the “housekeepers” was finished. The first couple arrives, Palmira and Antonio, who would live with us many years and they are part of our family constellation. Antonio helped enormously in everything related to the construction of the garden on the platform where the house is located as well as outside the platform, where the vegetation is wilder. He always followed the instructions of the landscape designer Guillermo Narberhaus, whose studio was called “Estudio Arte del Jardín” (Art of the Garden Studio).
With the house barely inhabited, Ricardo Gomis installed the sound system that he had in Barcelona under the two vaults of the living room. An excellent space for his “stereo,” a novelty then. Little by little he expands the number and variety of speakers to improve sound. The hi-fi system was the only thing that could alter the furniture location, meticulously considered by the architect and the owners. The Bechstein baby grand piano would not arrive until mid 1964. It would be placed in the location within the living room that had always been assigned to.
Our first night in the house would be in January of 1962, in the bedroom pavilion–known as the “children’s pavilion” within the family. It is winter, it is cold, and the heating is not yet working. But I remember the tremendous excitement, the adventure of sleeping in the “New House” for the first time.
The main bedroom—the “independent pavilion”—would not be completed until mid-March of that year. The house is inhabited but not finished. There is still a lot to do. Furniture would arrive little by little, as well as many of the details that would complete the project.
The building would officially be completed in February of 1963. But a house like this is never fully completed. Its creation continues.
2. Cultural Life
The Gomis family—the family of our father—had been involved in the avant-garde movements in the 1930s in Spain: ADLAN (Amics de l’Art Nou), GATCPAC (Grupo de Arquitectos y Técnicos Catalanes para el Progreso de la Arquitectura Contemporánea), and Discòfils Associació Pro Música.
They are composed of people of very different age groups and with very different professions. They include Josep Lluís Sert, Joan Miró, Roberto Gerhard, as well as writers, journalists, lawyers, engineers, and pharmacists to name a few. But, among them, the key person was Joan Prats. Professionally a hatter, he was the best friend of Joan Miró and the driving force behind innumerable cultural initiatives.
By the end of the 1940s, Club 49 is formed under the umbrella of the Hot Club de Barcelona, restarting avant-garde cultural activities, behind closed doors, and only for members of the association. These cultural activities open to new trends were only possible in a very restricted environment.
Besides Joan Miró, this group included Gustavo Gili (editor of Tauromaquia by Picasso), gallery owner Joan Gaspar (who represented artists such as Picasso, Joan Miró, and Antoni Clavé) and his wife Elvira Farreras (who was the assistant of André Malraux when he came to Barcelona in 1938 to film L’Espoir), doctor Joan Obiols (psychiatrist of Salvador Dalí). And, of course, Joan Prats, discreet, almost in the shadows, but launching any cultural initiative that was worth developing.
Within this context is how the house La Ricarda, as well as the encounters and cultural activities promoted by our parents, should be considered. Similarly, the works of art are few but carefully considered to be part of this house. Special mention to Moisés Villèlia and Magda Bolumar whose works of art continue to be integrated in the house and garden.
The Bertrand family—the family of our mother—followed a more traditional path. It included figures such as Arthur (Arturo when he arrived in Spain) Rubinstein, Conxita Badía, Alicia de Larrocha, and ophthalmologist Ignacio Barraquer, among many others.
The house is an open, light-filled, inviting construction. And it is like that because it reflects its creators. It is a place of gathering, of listening, of dialogue. It generates innumerable conversations before and after eating, where the discussion focuses on current affairs, culture, politics, and music and, as far as I remember, always with the presence of humor.
Music always had a prevailing presence
For us, Music, with capital M, has always been associated with the house. There were hours of silence, hours that you could only hear Music, of any kind, of any period, and hours of conversation and the hustle and bustle of the family.
In 1960, Club 49 created the Open Music section.
Except for Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970), exiled in Cambridge, UK, where he could be a full-time musician, the rest of the contemporary composers in Barcelona had to earn their living as engineers, chemists, and other professions, focusing on their musical creations on their free time.
There were few musicians ready and reliable to interpret contemporary works. Often composers created their works depending on the musicians that could interpret them. The exchange between Roberto Gerhard—Ricardo Gomis—Joaquim Homs illustrates this situation.
The size and the acoustic qualities of the living room of La Ricarda were ideal for live listening sessions of chamber music, musical theater of small format, and piano performances, all for an audience of about ninety people.
Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970) composed Concert for 8 (1962) dedicated to the Gomis Bertrand Family for the opening of the house. It was premiered in London in a concert recorded and broadcasted by the BBC. It would take years until it could be experienced in Barcelona as some of the instruments available in London were not available in Barcelona (!!!).
Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny (1929), professionally a chemist, studied the architectonic qualities of the house and composes the Divertimento “La Ricarda” (1962) taking advantage of the several doors of the living room where the concert would take place. The audience, focused on the music taking place on the stage, was suddenly surprised when they heard a clarinet behind their backs. Where did those sounds come from?
Writer-poet-playwright Joan Brossa (1919-1998) and composer Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny had a close collaboration for years. That collaboration generated works such as Concert per a representar (1964)—with a program cover by Antoni Tàpies—and the Suite Bufa (1966), with rehearsals in La Ricarda and the premiere at the Contemporary Art Festival in Bordeaux, France. In the score of the latter work, the barks of the German Shepherd that we had in our house got incorporated (the story of how those barks were recorded could be another essay!).
Joaquim Homs (1906-2003), engineer, cellist, and composer, composes Música per a 5 (1962), dedicated to Inés and Ricardo, a work that became part of the program that took place on November 23, 1963. The work had a subsequent version for seven instruments.
In February of 1965, Claude Helffer, French pianist specialized in twentieth-century music, gave a concert in Barcelona as part of the activities of Club 49. He spent the weekend before the performance at La Ricarda: days of rest, concentration, and study. Weekend cohabitating with a pianist was important for us and he was someone whose work we respected. We would walk on tiptoes around the house.
In July of 1966, thanks to the persistence and the many negotiations by Joan Miró, and with the collaboration of Club 49, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company performed in Sitges, their first performance in Spain. The day after the performance, the whole dance company came to La Ricarda to rest. In John Cage’s work Empty Words, “Where are we Eating? And what are we eating?” talks about the “tortillas” (omelets) and the Gomis daughters from that day.
There is also room for classical music (the flute player Jean Pierre Rampal, soprano Montserrat Caballé), for jazz (Tete Montoliu Trio), for rock, folk, and pop. Established artists could benefit from the good acoustics of the living room as a rehearsal for their performances. And it could also be beneficial to lesser-known artists or at the beginning of their careers. With microphones and tape-recorders always ready, Ricardo captured the rehearsals and performances.
A few years ago, the Gomis Bertrand siblings donated this sound archive to the Music Library of the Biblioteca de Catalunya, where it is available for consultation.
Besides live music, there were innumerable listening sessions of records, many times unscheduled and always open to those who would visit the house.
Our university period arrived. For many of our classmates, La Ricarda showed that another culture was possible. And for some of them, it was the beginning of a musical and art passion, as well as collecting.
3. The Transfer to the Second Generation, the Preservation of the House, and the Cultural Management Since Then
The death of our parents, between 1992 and 1993, became an inflection point. The question became, what to do with the house. All six siblings arrived at the conclusion that La Ricarda had been designed in a way that the only option to move forward was to continue as it had been created. There were no possible transformations.
In the fall of 1994, we changed the formats of the visits that had been initiated a few years earlier by our mother, Inés Bertrand. Our proposal was to make public the house and its history, the ideas behind it, and the people who made it possible. Starting from a basic presentation, we would modify our explanations depending on the interests and objectives of each group, as our visits are open to multiple audiences, not only to the professional and specialized one.
Since then, La Ricarda has become a “case study” for architecture, design, interior design, and landscape schools, from Spain as well as from other countries. Often, those visits get complemented by drawing classes, modeling workshops, site specific interventions, architecture photography, object design, and study of materials and colors to name a few.
As years go by, it has become more important and necessary to situate the house within the period of time that it was built. It is clear that for the younger generations it is complicated to imagine a life without weekends, without a car or a motorcycle, without a phone, without internet, social media, and all the technological advances that we enjoy nowadays (we lived in a house without a phone until 1974!). Placing the house within a specific period of time allows them to see it with other eyes and begin to understand the space that they experience when they come into the house.
At the end of 1995, the COAC (Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya), led by architects Fernando Alvarez y Jordi Roig, asked for our permission to create a monograph about the house. It is the beginning of a fruitful collaboration that continues today. Since then, they are the “architects-family doctor” of the house. Thanks to them, twenty years ago this year we started the rehab work on the roof. Besides that, they are the spokespeople of this project through their classes in the university, their essays, and their lectures. After all these years, we are in a second edition of a friendship between architects and owners.
The word of mouth has increased exponentially the number of visits to the house and cultural proposals. There have been new articles published in mainstream and specialized magazines, both in Spain and in other countries. There have been independent documentaries made as well as others associated with graduate programs in different universities.
Video art works, such as La Ricarda, à flux tendu created in 2006 by the Belgian artist Michel François and Jacky-Ruth Meyer (then director of the Centre d’Art Le LAIT in Albi, France), are currently in the permanent collection of the MACBA (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Barcelona), as well as other pieces of smaller size presented in several editions of the Barcelona LOOP Festival.
New references in a PhD thesis.
We arrive at the thesis that the architect Ricardo Flores dedicates exclusively to the house: Casa La Ricarda de Antonio Bonet Castellana. Un territorio formalizado, defended in 2016. In it, he redraws working drawings, builds a marvelous model, and develops a deep new reading of all the correspondence between the architect and the owners.
In 2013, architectural historian Natascha Drabbe, founder of the international organization ICONIC HOUSES, became interested in La Ricarda. Shortly after, we became members of the organization. Thanks to her, we are accompanied by the best architects and the best architecture of the twentieth and twenty-first century.
The Gomis Bertrands have always participated in these proposals and activities, personally leading the tours, sharing our memories and considerations (which makes all the difference!), and maintaining the documentation that we keep in the family archives.
Music has been deafened by the noise of the airplanes.
Its future is unknown.
Memories by Inés Gomis Bertrand (b. 1945)
I was born at the end of June and, as I was told, a few weeks later my parents took me to La Ricarda. The pine tree scent, the breeze, the sound of the waves, and the songs of the birds and at the same time the silence, the nature, the long walks along the paths in the forest and by the lake, the feeling of being in an isolated environment and yet so close to civilization will always remain in my memory throughout my life.
During our childhood and youth, we went to La Ricarda nearly every Sunday and stayed in the “Old House” during the month of July. In the summer, we spent the day by the seaside where there was a Canadian Wooden House that my grandfather bought in the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibit, which still exists nowadays.
As the family was growing, by 1949 my parents considered building their own house either in Sitges, a village 30 kilometers south from Barcelona and very dear to my father and his family, or in the property my mother owned by the seaside in La Ricarda. The balance finally tipped in favor of La Ricarda.
My mother was awarded the plot of land at one end of the estate and the farthest away from the houses that already existed at that time. My mother’s family was very traditional, and according to comments of friends and family, it was so because my mother’s family feared the project that my parents were going to carry out. Sustainable criteria were then on their minds: nature was to be preserved, the house had to be integrated in the environment, and water from the air conditioning had to be used for the pool and from there to irrigation.
Throughout the years of construction, we had many visits from family and friends who followed the process, some with curiosity and others with much interest. That was the case of Dr. Ignacio Barraquer, whose ophthalmological clinic, built in 1934, is one of the most emblematic rationalist buildings in Barcelona. I remember that on many occasions he would ask my father, “How are the Modules doing?” and followed saying, “Ricardo, a house is never finished.”
Since I was a teenager and while I lived in Barcelona, I kept going to the “New House” on weekends and in the summertime. The house was always open to friends and family. Anyone could come home every day for a drink before supper. We also hosted friends from France, India, UK, US, Switzerland, and visitors from many other countries: Les amis de mes amis sont mes amis. July was a busy month. We had finished our exams at the university, many of our classmates were still in Barcelona and came to bathe, play tennis or football, or simply to spend some time listening to music or chatting. I remember one evening, after many having been out for dinner or dancing, that I was too tired to go out and choose to stay at home. Around 2:00 am, someone sat on my bed and woke me up because they couldn’t find the keys to the garden restrooms for a nighttime swim in the pool. They gave me a big scare, but I ended up bathing with everyone!
Years later, I continued to go to La Ricarda during Christmas, Easter, and summer holidays with my husband and my three sons. The holidays were an excellent opportunity to bring the family together, and all of us enjoyed being there. My children, their families, and also their friends have been able to enjoy the house and its surroundings throughout these years. They say that it is a privilege, in spite of the kerosene and the noise of the airplanes, to be able to enjoy an environment without neighbors, the house, the garden, the forest, the nearby beach, although ours has practically disappeared due to the modifications of the port and the riverbed.
The airport did not exist when my great grandfather bought this land, the birds in the area were protected for many years and are now a danger to aircrafts, and the coast has suffered considerable changes, due to man’s hand or climate change. I hope that younger generations will take sustainability seriously and that what is left of the natural park as well as the house will be preserved for the future.
Memories by Elena Gomis Bertrand (b. 1946)
Memories… and Desires…
I enjoyed the house since the beginning of its construction.
I was about 10 years old and I remember sticking wooden pegs in the ground between the pine trees of the forest and placing ropes between the pegs to define the square spaces of the vaults. Later on, I remember witnessing every Sunday (at that time we had class on Saturday!), little by little, the progress in the construction of the house.
It was exciting to see that “forest” of wooden pegs that supported the formwork for the vaults and, upon the disappearance of that “forest,” the vault became visible giving a feeling of harmony, elegance, peace, and embrace.
They were like the waves of the sea, one vault after another one.
You would discover the importance of every detail, not only during the construction of the house but also in the selection of the furniture and any tools needed for the daily life of a large family.
I always felt at ease there, in constant relation with:
- nature: the garden, the forest, the sea.
- music: that you would hear through the excellent sound system that my father had.
- family: mother, father, and siblings as well as with the numerous uncles, aunts, and cousins.
- friends: both our friends as well as my parents’ friends, that came to share a good time having conversations, listening to music, and enjoying each other’s company.
- myself: also enjoying the silence.
The house is a person with a life of its own. I would like her to explain to us everything that she has experienced, seen, felt…
And I wish that the facilities can be taken care for the enjoyment of future generations for many years to come!
Memories by Beatriz Gomis Bertrand (b. 1949)
La Ricarda, What This House is For Me
I was seven years old when the construction of the house started and we moved in when I was twelve years old. For me, it was a normal house as I grew up there, with my siblings, following the evolution of its construction.
However, somehow we could perceive that it must be something special as some members of our family would come on the weekends to check the progress. They would be surprised and would not understand certain aspects of the construction, such as the vaults, the glass walls, the presence of large spaces such as the living room, and others relatively small such as most of the bedrooms and bathrooms.
The house was built thinking even about the smallest details. I remember that several ceramic tiles from Cucurny were selected as pavement and they made us step on them with our shoes wet and dry to check which tiles showed the dirt less.
The big passion for music that my father had determined the project for the house. The living room had to have the best acoustics. While the house was under construction, we would clap our hands in the room to check the resonance. He had a big passion for any kind of music, from classical to contemporary, including jazz, flamenco, and rock. Even on winter days, he would play a record with bird sounds having the windows open and the birds from the garden would respond.
This house, thanks to its glass walls, got me used to enjoying, from the inside, the light conditions at different times of the day, making me feel as if I was outside. It also made cooking without having the feeling of being confined. The whole house has the same structure and the service area is as bright as the rest.
I have important memories of my life in La Ricarda: listening to music during the winter and being in the garden, as you were able to open the sliding doors of the living room; Of having spent great moments with my parents and siblings, with friends—our parents opened the doors to the house to everyone—and later, with my husband and children.
I could also enjoy, with my siblings and on many occasions, the cultural circles that my parents moved in, with visits by artists and concerts, in a very avant-garde environment compared to the culture of that period.
Over the years, we realized more about the importance of the house, how advanced and innovative it was for its period and for its architectural qualities. When my parents were alive, students from the School of Architecture in Barcelona (ETSAB) already visited the house. The number of visits has increased, both from national and international architecture schools as well as design schools and others. More and more individuals have interest in visiting it. Over the years, the work of Antonio Bonet and the Gomis House have increased their recognition.
In 1994, after our parents passed away, we considered what we were going to do with the house. Individually, none of us could take care of the house but it was evident that we needed to preserve this heritage and look for a solution for its future. The sale of the house is unfeasible due to its proximity to the airport. Although the airport has always been close to the house, now the problem has incremented due to the airport expansions and having the third runway about 400 meters (1,300 feet) away from the house.
The family continues to grow and what the second generation was able to do for the house won’t be possible with the third generation. Because of the affection that I have for the house, I would like it to have a continuity that currently is not secured.
Memories by José Antonio Gomis Bertrand (b. 1950)
La Casa Nueva (The New House)
A few weeks ago, we received the commission to write something about our house in La Ricarda. I did not have a clue where to start. And then, several nicknames she received over the years came to my mind.
La Casa Nueva (The New House), Casa Gomis, Casa La Ricarda, La Casa de Cristal (The Glass House), La Casa de los Módulos (The House of the Modules). All for the same place.
When my parents started to contemplate building a house for the family to spend weekends and holidays, I did not even exist as a concept. I came later, like my youngest sister.
Since I was born, La Casa Nueva has been part of my life and for me is like another sibling.
My parents used to take us for weekends and part of the summer holidays to another house in La Ricarda (this is how my mother’s family estate in the Delta of the Llobregat River, near Barcelona, has been known since early 1900). It was the first country house built in the property well over a century ago—even before my mother’s family owned the estate. To everybody this is La Casa Vieja (The Old House). She is still standing up, proud and in good health, being used by several members of our large family as a place to get together.
When I was a small boy, I remember my parents taking us to a piece of land in one of the corners of the family estate by the seaside that belonged to my mother. It was quiet and peaceful, with small sand dunes and round pine trees. They told us they might build a new house there in the near future. Shortly thereafter, things started to move. A platform for the house was built and a new construction started to come out of the ground: La Casa Nueva. It was so different from everything else I had seen before!
I saw that place being built year after year and we, small kids, very often visited the place with our parents. I particularly remember watering small pine trees around the skeleton of several structures under construction equal to each other (Los Módulos) every time we were there.
For me, this house is something unique. It is part of my life. It means my parents and family, nature, friendship, openness, culture, harmony, inner peace, and specially MUSIC. Yes, MUSIC with capital letters, all kinds of music. Also, the sound of nature (the forest, the sea, the wind, the rain, the storm). And the real sound of silence.
Something I want to share with you is that, even when I was alone in La Casa Nueva, I never felt lonely or in discomfort. The House takes you in her arms and never lets you down. I told you she is my sixth sister, didn’t I?
I could go on and on telling you so many things about this place, but others are waiting in line to do so and I have to leave some space for them to express their feelings.
La Casa Nueva is in contrast with La Casa Vieja. An opposition between something new and revolutionary (in the sense that quite a few people at the time found this new house dreadful) and something old and traditional. Opposite concepts that I like and that I am very comfortable to live with.
Memories by Susana Gomis Bertrand (b. 1952)
My Memories and Experiences in the House
The peace when my father played music and you sat reading in the living room while the music was playing.
The snack hours with our parents. It was the gathering moment for the whole family when we could all talk and interact with our parents
The amount of parties that we had after our mother would say good night in our pavilion. Our bedrooms were far from hers. And when she would leave, our pavilion would become lively.
The breakfast. I never had breakfast, but I made sure to always have it there. The table was set for everyone in the house and you could have conversations, or not. You couldn’t talk to my mother as her mind was still sleepy despite her eyes being open. My children remember that the table was set and, once they were done having breakfast, they had to place a new plate and a cup for the next one who would come to have breakfast after them.
When people that we didn’t want to see came to the house, we would leave the living room using the narrow side of the door.
My bones were very fragile. One day, walking down the corridor-gallery in the direction of my parents’ pavilion, I broke my foot and my parents heard the “croc” from their room.
The feeling of not being in an enclosed house but being simultaneously inside and outside.
A brother or my mother—our uncle José Antonio Bertrand—gave my parents a record with bird sounds from other countries as a present. My father used to play it on Sundays, with all the sliding doors open (today, none open due to certain negative circumstances that took place a few years ago, memories that are not good; but we need to leave those memories aside, as more positive ones prevail) and we listened to how the birds of La Ricarda, very surprised, were responding according to the songs they heard.
We must not forget how modern my parents were, they always had the doors open (the house was never closed). My cousins, who were much older than I, would come and say, “uncle Ricardo, can you play these records that we have brought from abroad?” He never refused and we would all start dancing, with the older cousins teaching the younger ones. The sound was extraordinary!
I can’t forget “OURKY,” the German Shepperd that the older sister of my mother gifted us for the house. The funniest thing was that when my parents would hug, he would stand up to separate them. I think that Ourky felt that he was my mother’s guardian and he would defend her as if my father was attacking her.
There is no doubt that without the complicity of my parents, this house would not have been possible. And in this complicity, I include the six children, because our parents made us part of their intentions.
We can’t forget our passion for music. We have had it since we were children. My father would place us in front of the speakers, and he would ask us to tell where the sound was coming from.
I realized about the value of the house later, when my parents were no longer present, when I saw how others valued the house.
For me, the house was normal. With my friends from school, who all came to the house once a year, there was never a conflict. Although for me it was normal, it was a little hard to offer the house to celebrate the end of the school year at the end of high school.
This house received many names. “Casa de Cristal (Glass House) is the one that I remember the most. I am sure my siblings remember others.
Big music concerts were not an odd experience. Similarly, it wasn’t odd meeting people that are nowadays recognized as key artists of the twentieth-century.
My mother’s brothers thought that my father was crazy. “Who can come up with a house of these characteristics!!!” But afterwards, when the house was completed, they always came to our house.
When I was older, it also caught my attention the consideration my parents and the architect had with the people who helped us at home. They had the same amenities as us: air conditioning, heating, furniture…
My daughter Sandra (1984) remembers playing hide and seek in the house and only the older cousins would go on the roof—they didn’t let the little ones go up, with great disgust of them.
Another anecdote by my daughter Sandra took place in September of 1994 when international architects who were attending the Third International Docomomo Conference visited the house, “What does the house of my grandparents have that so many people want to visit it?
Memories by Mario Lucarda (b. 1944), husband of Marita Gomis
Interior y Jardin
La Casa de Cristal
Levantas un muro,
ahuecas una ventana,
debajo, una repisa
para ordenar tus documentos.
Edificas un oído
una utopía de sonidos,
en el ritmo de los pasos
las manos o los frutos
que se viven diariamente.
Hay árboles al fondo
y una graduación de verde en los setos,
las fronteras que separan
el jardín del matorral.
La espesura poco a poco escasea
hacia la arena rizada
por el aire del mar.
Poema publicado en el libro de Mario Lucarda Voltereta en el Aire (Calima Poesía, 2002).
Interior and Garden
The Glass House
You raise a wall,
you hollow out a window,
underneath, a shelf
to arrange your documents.
You built up an ear
a utopia of sounds,
in the rhythm of the steps
the hands or the fruits
that you live everyday.
There are trees in the back
and a gradation of green in the hedges,
the boundaries that separate
the garden from the bush.
The thicket becomes scarce little by little
towards the sand curled
by the air of the sea.
Poem from Mario Lucarda’s book Voltereta en el Aire (Calima Poesía, 2002).
Memories by Fernando Espinós (b. 1947), husband of Beatriz Gomis
I met Beatriz at the end of 1972 during a trip to India and Nepal with friends. We started dating in March of 1973 and in April or May—it was spring, of that I am sure—she invited me to spend an afternoon in a house that her family had in El Prat, a few kilometers away from Barcelona.
I showed up at La Ricarda. I remember that I entered through the garden. I haven’t forgotten the feeling that I got. I grew up in a very traditional middle-class family and Barcelona was then a very different city from the current one. It was a gray city, or at least that is how I remember it, as gray was in general the life under the dictatorship. The image of La Ricarda that I have from that first visit is of a different life, the image of modernity. It was the feeling of suddenly entering another world, bright, modern, and free. What I am saying is no small thing.
Beatriz and I got married a few months after that and we have spent great moments in La Ricarda with our children and the Gomis Bertrand family. We have had a great time with our friends, and our children with their friends.
La Ricarda, over forty-five years later, continues to surprise me. I always discover details and new angles. The living room continues to impress me every time I enter the house. The light, the welcoming spaciousness, the perfection of the dimensions- that make it spectacularly beautiful-I haven’t found it anywhere else. The latticework, with the glass pieces of extraordinary colors, continues to amaze me. What can I say of the fantastic nocturnal view of the illuminated living room from the garden…
La Ricarda is part of our lives, which is, obviously, a true luxury.
Memories by Maria Eugenia (b. 1954), wife of Jose Antonio
The first time I went to La Ricarda was in July of 1978. When I arrived, led by the son of the family, I thought I was in Hollywood. I did not think that there could be a house like this in Spain. Of course, I could think of more beautiful, larger, and more ostentatious houses but this one was different. It was during the evening, the parking and the house were illuminated, it was impressive. In the entrance, above a basin filled with water that welcomes you, there was a mobile by Moisés Villèlia suspended in this glass cage. Upon entering the living room, I was amazed by its volumes and communion with nature. There were no walls, only huge windows overlooking the garden.
Having had the privilege of spending a few weeks each summer for many years at La Ricarda, the memories pile up. My children have learned to swim in the pool; the numerous large meals organized in the dining room where all the aspects had been studied to the nearest centimeter; the evening aperitif presided over by the master of the house, Ricardo, where everyone made an effort to dress up as a tribute to this beautiful place …
For us who reside abroad, this property has helped to strengthen our family ties, which were already strong, giving us the living space and the opportunity to share the daily life with the “Gomis Bertrand tribe.”
Memories by Nàdia Ribó (b. 1971), daughter of Elena Gomis
My memories of La Ricarda consist in images loaded with emotion. Visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile images.
Above all, I feel the contrast. The humidity of the exterior in relationship with the environmental comfort of the interior. The amount of natural light that entered through every corner of the house… and then you would enter the “black bathroom” and you wouldn’t see anything (because you were blinded). The rough grass characteristic of the garden in contrast with the smooth suede of the couches, as if they were velvet. The silence… and suddenly a plane flying low (as we were next to the airport), with that deafening noise that you get used to after the second conversation. In fact, in my universe, the noise of the planes always recalls a feeling of peace and harmony (what I felt in my childhood when I was in La Ricarda). I keep the “tomato pear” juices that Tata made us in mind, in those glasses so particular from La Ricarda. And the smell of iron in the water when we filled the bathtubs. And the bubbles of the Redoxón—effervescent tablets with Vitamin C—(always before eating). I remember the family connection and the receptions with guests at the end of the day. There was always scotch with ice in tubular glasses with stirs, and very well-dress people that seem to belong to a world already extinct. I was forbidden to have those cocktails (due to my young age) but you always had the option to ask permission to access my grandparent’s room to share those moments with a lemon candy that my grandmother would give me. Those microcosmos disappeared when my grandparents passed away… and I always feel a profound nostalgia.
A few years later, I remember a party in the living room, dancing with my aunts and uncles when I tried peppermint for the first time.
And afterwards, a staging of Nirvana’s Unplugged album in my grandparents’ room, with one of my cousins playing guitar. It was fantastic, but a side of me felt that it was a true desecration of what that “sanctuary” had meant. (I don’t think anybody else felt the same way as my cousins are younger and perhaps, they don’t share some of my memories).
In short, energy transforms. And, in that sense, I would like to note that a few years ago I had the chance to build my own house, in which you can find similarities with La Ricarda, as I want my home to convey peace and harmony.
Memories by David Espinós (b. 1977), son of Beatriz Gomis
La Ricarda, the magnetic house
La Ricarda. Two words that recall so many memories, so many emotions, so many conversations…
Since I was a child, I lived there during the summers with my grandparents, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my siblings, my parents… Up to twenty-one people lived in the house at one point. Summers in La Ricarda were a continuous party for the cousins. Games, bike races, tennis games, bathing in the swimming pool, card games, and breakfasts, lunches, and dinners attended by many people.
I have thousands of memories from those summers. While I write these lines, I remember the walks along the long and illuminated corridor to give a goodnight kiss to my grandparents who were in their room, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by friends, almost always enjoying an aperitif.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized about the privilege I had of spending my childhood summers in this marvelous piece of architecture that has been relevant for so many architects around the world. Thanks to the generosity of my aunts and my mother, when my grandparents died and we became older, the doors of the house remained open. We replaced the summers and the family with weekends and friends. For the last twenty-four years, I have enjoyed the house around paellas and barbecues with friends and family. We start early and finish by dusk, because nobody wants to leave La Ricarda. It is a magnetic house that represents a way to understand architecture that we are losing. An architect friend of mine told me a couple of years ago: “I am sure it was a privilege for Antonio Bonet to have clients such as your grandparents that they had clear ideas, were so advanced for their time, and were so demanding.”
A few months ago, I visited the house with some friends, among them an architect and the founder of a hotel chain. I remember that they were impressed by every detail of the house. They mentioned that they could see the class of the architect and also the hand of the engineer, my grandfather Ricardo, in the details of certain finishes. That architect commented at the end of the visit: “After visiting a house like this, you have the feeling that everything you do is worthless.” He was exaggerating as he has designed remarkable buildings. But his comment does indeed reflect the relevance of this house for many architects and for many of us who are not architects, for what it is and for what it represents. Long live La Ricarda!
Memories by Victoria Bonet, daughter of Antonio Bonet Castellana
My father, the Architect, liked to do the site visits on Sunday morning when, alone, without contractors or any other person that would ask him anything, could walk and think freely and without interruptions. Many times, I would join him, as it was very rare to have time that we could be together. You have to remember that he had projects on two and three continents simultaneously.
For me, it was truly a joy to play with the wheelbarrows, the concrete mixer, or the bricks. Those were our moments together, private, and it was tradition that we kept all his life. One day, when I started to have my doubts regarding people and space, and the correct relationship between them, I asked him if he ever had doubts.
His answer was, for me, very curious. He said that he had doubts many times and to exemplify that, he told me a small anecdote.
“Once, in La Ricarda, when the living room was empty, with no furniture, no references, suddenly I had doubts about the relationship between people and space. You were playing outdoors, so I called you and placed you in the center of the living room. I left you with pieces of different materials, dirt, and construction debris so you could play, and I continued my site visit. After I while, I came back to check on you, to see your reaction, and I found you happy, playing where I had left you. I knew then that I hadn’t made a mistake. If the relationship with the space had been wrong, you would have moved closer to the wall, you would have looked for comfort somewhere else, similarly to a wounded animal. The fact that, without you knowing it, were comfortable and happy, was the answer to my doubt about the size of the empty space. And remember, characters need sets, people need spaces to live.”