Gaudi’s El Capricho, displays the architect’s genius with design, nature, and music
In the far north of Spain along the Atlantic coast, a soon-to-be-famous architect got his start. Here, Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to build a house for one of the richest men in the region. The creation was set in Comillas about 50 km. west of Santander, Spain. It is commonly called El Capricho. This fabulous home took full advantage of the movement of the sun, new construction materials, and Gaudi’s understanding of acoustics.
At the time it became a fashionable place to vacation and eventually the Spanish royal family began to spend their summers here. The building was designed as the home for one of Spain’s most eligible bachelors. After making his fortune in Cuba-Spain commerce he wanted to build a summer house in his hometown. Tragically, he only spent a few nights in this home before passing away.
The outside of the house is decorated with glossy tiles depicting bright leaves and sunflowers that almost seem to move with the sun, and shiny wall tiles. These contrast with rough stones and bricks, each laid with geometric precision. Plus, surrounding the house were fanciful wrought-iron railings with built-in “hanging” benches and decor that added another form of whimsy.
The main gardens, always important for Gaudi, lie at the western end of the house. Besides Gaudi’s desire to highlight the main entrance, the narrow shape of the land influenced his design. Behind the home on the southern side, there is a small grotto and narrow garden.
The public and private sides of the house
The building itself is a display of colors, tiles, and location, with Mudejar, Gothic, and Oriental styles. Gaudi designed the house with a public side and a private side. A flamboyant façade with four stone columns stands at the western end of the building. It opens into the public areas. A visitors room, dining room, and living room all are reached through the grand entrance. The private side of the building includes the master bedroom and a large bathroom. These rooms are on the eastern side of the house and provide privacy for the owner away from the public area.
Colors and light predominate in Gaudi’s design. Tall windows let in the morning sun and they were designed with a modular system to allow additional light on the north-facing side of the home. Stained glass windows are featured in every room, allowing soft colors to mingle with sunlight. Every window features glass decor that reflects nature or music. Finally, take a good look at the ceilings. The beams and coffered details are extraordinary and are different for every room.
A building designed for the movement of the sun
This public/private layout was also influenced by the movement of the sun. The bedroom, private sitting room, and bathroom were on the eastern end of the building to take advantage of the morning sun. This is where the owner was expected to spend his early hours. Then, to take advantage of the sunset, the public rooms of the house were set on the western end of the home.
Between these two ends of the home is a magnificent greenhouse along the southern façade and a phenomenal music room that opens to the northern side of the building. The music room or living room is equipped with phenomenal acoustics, cantilevered windows that “sing” as they are raised and lowered, and which can be operated with only a finger because of the delicate balance in their construction.
Visit Gaudi’s creation from November through February from 10:30a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and from July to September from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Last access to the site is 30 minutes before. There are also guided visits. Check the website for times of visits in English (normally about 12:30 and 4:30, however, they change with the seasons.) Entrance fee: Adults € 5.00 / Children 7 – 14 years € 2.50 /Children under 7 years free. Disability card € 2.50.
Photos © C. Leocha
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past ten years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.