Photographing heritage. El Capricho


El Capricho, built in Comillas in the northern region of Cantabria in Spain in 1885, is one of Antoni Gaudí's youth early works and is contemporary to the recently restored Vicens House in Barcelona.

This small summer vacation house in a distinct green color protected by huge solid trees has a clear exotic inspiration and represents the Mudejar and Orientalist influence of Antoni Gaudí's early style as an author.

These style marks are expressed both by the use of materials, stone in the lower part of the house, exposed brick adorned with glazed ceramic strips representing sunflowers and leaves, and the outstanding presence of a Persian air minaret that provides verticality to the building that is completed with colored ceramic and cast iron elements that also point to the 'coup de fouet' of European Art Nouveau.

El Capricho is a small and beautiful hidden gem surrounded by a very unique landscape, one of Gaudí's few buildings built outside Catalonia and that, like all the works of the Catalan architect, displays a great richness of detail and symbolism .

Surely one of the most surprising elements of El Capricho is the constant presence of ceramic tiles representing sunflowers, a plant impossible to find in the rainy region of Cantabria and that is placed on the facade to literally take the sun to the building, a house which is also oriented as a perfect solar compass following sunrise and sunset path to coincide with the domestic activities that take place into this home.

To stand out also how Gaudí adapts to the tastes of his client Máximo Díaz de Quijano, an amateur musician among many other things. That’s why, the sunflowers on the facade are arranged in five horizontal lines to represent a pentagram and also the forging elements on the balconies take the form of musical notes.

The name of the building, El Capricho, evokes the freedom of style of the musical composition but also speaks of the Quijano’s desire to erect a building with such an extravagant look for the time in a place like Comillas –‘capricho’ is actually Spanish for' whim’–.

The photographs, an assignment from the property of the building intended to support its communication, are designed to represent the building with the appearance of an exotic air doll house in a natural environment –as a matter of fact, El Capricho is probably the only work by Gaudí in that the trees have such an important presence–.

To achieve this goal in the very same way that I have already done in other heritage buildings, it is especially important that photographs give the viewer the impression that the building is placed in a reality out of time: hence, no person appears in the images nor any temporary element that does not really belong to El Capricho.

And even more important to work with this intention in mind, to simplify in the photographs all the elements that do actually set permanence and presence to the images: light, color and carefully framing lines and shapes. I was really lucky to have Cantabria’s incredible light, with skies almost always overcast and mysterious, fantastic to achieve the effect that we had planned in briefing with the owners.

Once everything was ready and all the elements were put together, I just had to wait with my camera until both the light and the building showed me in all their glory the right path to follow in a continuous and endless surprise.

After all, photographing Gaudí's work is always like that.

David Cardelús