In the centre of a pine forest along the Mediterranean coast, a few kilometres from Barcelona, in the municipality of El Prat de Llobregat, is the Casa Gomis; better known in the field of architecture as Casa La Ricarda, or to the locals as The Glass House. Designed by architect Antonio Bonet Castellana (1913-1989), disciple and collaborator of José Luis Sert and Le Corbusier, for the marriage of Agnes Bertrand (1915-1992) and Ricardo Gomis (1910-1993).
The house, as we know it today, was designed in 1953, although work did not begin until mid-1957 and the family moved to live there before the final completion certificate was signed in February 1963. It was a work in close collaboration and complicity between the architect and the owners. It is a rationalist work, following the principles of the architecture of the Modern Movement, and with a sense of “total work” according to this criteria.
The architect intervened not only in the design of the building but also in the choice of materials in every detail of interior and furniture design, and also in the design of the surrounding garden.
At the beginning of the twentieth century a series of manifestos on the new concepts of architecture and design had emerged. In 1928 Bonet founded the Swiss CIAM, International Congress of Modern Architecture, under the direction of Le Corbusier.
In response to this initiative, in 1930 Bonet created GATCPAC in Catalonia: Grup d’Arquitectes i Tècnics Catalans per al Progres de l’Architecture Contemporary. Separately in Zaragoza, GATEPAC was created: Group of Artists and Technicians for Spanish progress of Contemporary Architecture, which also integrates GATCPAC, and who has played an important role during the years of the existence of both of these groups.
In 1932, he founded ADLAN in Barcelona, a Friends of l’Art Nou group, aiming to promote avant-garde art. Then in 1935, he created the Pro-Music Discòfils Association with the aim of spreading music through recorded auditions. By the late 1940s, people who had participated in these movements and were living in Barcelona, came together and founded Club 49, which was a return to the cultural activities of the previous decade.
Joaquim Gomis, Joan Prats, José Luis Sert, Eudaldo Serra and Ricardo Gomis, among others were linked to this avant-garde movement that drove the arts in its broadest sense. La Casa Gomis is a consequence of these movements and is directly linked to them. Bonet Castellana was part of GATEPAC, along with Sert and Torres Clave. Prats and J. Gomis were a part of ADLAN and later of Club 49 with R. Gomis.
The basic element that articulates the house and the garden is a module 8.80m x 8.80m, in which four thin iron pillars support a concrete vault to make the building feel light.
The property is all on ground level, with one basement that houses spaces for services quarters.
The vaults, or modules, determine the different spaces, establishing a continuous dialogue from inside to out. The building has several distinct areas: “the independent pavilion” for Mr and Mrs Gomis, connected to the rest of the house through a conservatory; the “the bedroom pavilion” with six rooms for their six children; a spacious living and dining area; two porches from the central body that move into the garden, one semi covered; and another wing which held the home of the guards, and the people who look after the running of the house and the garage.
The living room is at the core of the house, which is large with two modules. The design of the great room provides a superb sound reproduction, and also had a piano. There they often hold concerts, organized by Club 49, by other groups or simply as the result of their family life – jazz concerts, concerts of classical music, or just tests or test recordings of previous artists’ relevant representations. Many people from the world of music have performed there, such as Roberto Gerhard, Jean Pierre Rampal, Tete Montoliu, Conchita Badia, Anna Ricci, Gratacós, Carles Santos, Mestres Quadreny, among others.
The garden with the pool is one of the most important parts of the house, bringing in the light to the house. The pool’s primary function was then, and still is now, as a water tank for watering the garden. “In summer, we used to take a dip after playing sports with friends when they came around. But on full moon nights we had enough light to go down to the beach and swim in the sea.”
Inés Bertrand and Ricardo Gomis belonged to large families, and they were very open people, ready to welcome others into the house. They loved young people of the new generation who came late in the afternoon or evening, with their albums the most avant-garde artists of the time in jazz, pop or folk music. They had enough room to organise sessions of dancing where people would also learn the new dance styles of the time.