Most of the times when I come across a house I like, I am trying to imagine how was it in the times it was built, who were the owners, how would they live, and at what extent was their own taste reflected into the building. Also, how much of the architect’s mind is in the shapes, details, and colours chosen.
Casa Francesc Cama
Judging by the house, I’d say that the family of Francesc Cama were bon viveurs and nature lovers. But it’s the style of the architect that gives the wow effect.
The mansion inspires summer throughout all decorations – the trencadís of the balconies, the ceramic tiles of the facade, the colourful flowers of the entrance hall and the plaster shapes, all suggesting somehow a green field landscape.
Vibrant colours in small proportion are placed on the pale green background of the facade, while the entrance is filled with Art-Nouveau-like shapes from the ceramic tiles to the undulating plaster of the ceiling, and from the carpentry to the door knobs.
Francesc Berenguer, author of the project of this house, as well as assistant and friend of Antoni Gaudí, had never actually finished his studies, and his projects were signed by other architects. Still, his elegant style and sophisticated choice of materials is easy to recognize.
Also on Gran de Gràcia avenue, close to Lesseps, there’s another Modernist jewel which impresses me every time I pass by. If Casa Francesc Cama has many Art Nouveau details, Casa Ramos is a pure expression of Catalan Modrrnism. The owner of the mansion was shipbuilding magnate Ricardo Ramos, who requested a five-storey residence. In 1906 when the house was built, it was making a big statement in the area the area, by then mainly comprising modest houses without too much decoration. The architect in charge was Jaume Torres i Grau, who created a complex of three independent buildings united by a single main facade.
Closed to visitors and without a museum to celebrate its vanguard design, Casa Ramos is lesser known by Modernist style aficionados, even though it’s right on the way between Passeig de Gràcia and Park Güell.
Like other Modernist buildings, the facade features impressive ornamental details inspired by Gothic architecture, mixed with nature-inspired details – like the bees on the main floor balcony, which gave to Casa Ramos its “house of bees” nickname.
Montjuïc sandstone tribunes and balconies with wrought iron railings are symmetrically placed on the five-storey-high facade, and decor is completed with a geometrical sgraffito.
The Modernist essence of the building is flourishing in the interior as well, where sgraffito elements, ceramic tiles and plaster ceiling lend inimitable character to the spaces. One of the apartments is available for rent via Airbnb and the visitors can enjoy some great views towards the inner garden, and also amazing decorations like a wall covered in floral tiles, created by Modernist mosaic designer Lluís Bru. These tiles are also displayed in the collection of Barcelona’s Design Museum. The Ramos house has also been movie setting for Almodóvar’s Todo sobre mi madre, as the family home of Penélope Cruz’s character.
Every time I pass by Plaça de la Virreina I stop to take a look at a house also designed by Francesc Berenguer. The elegant sgraffito and the undulated balconies of this residence create here of of the most original facades of the entire Vila de Gràcia.
Unlike many other sgraffito designs which are created as a repetitive pattern of small dimensions, Casa Rubinat features five column-like floral verticals which grow on entire height of the five floors, gradually changing their shape.
Casa Rubinat (1905-1909) was commissioned by industrialist Joan Baptista Rubinat who, just like the other entrepreneurs and bourgeois including Vincens, Calvet, Batlló or Güell, challenged the architects to deliver original, exquisitely decorated mansions, as mark of the social status of their owners.