"The world is not a rectilinear world, it is a curvilinear world. The heavenly bodies go in a curve because that is the
natural way..."

-- George Bernard Shaw

"I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein."

-- Oscar Niemeyer

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

18. The Craziest Building in Valencia, Spain.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered, quite by accident, what I consider to be Valencia's most unusual, yet least known architectural structure. It's not mentioned in any Valencia guidebooks or tourist websites. Its location is rather out of the way - down a small road between the bullring (boooooo) and train station. There are no signs nearby pointing the way, or plaques out front indicating that it's a sight of historical/cultural interest.

But once you've found it - assuming you do - I think you'll agree it's a most peculiar building:


I did a bit of digging and found that surprisingly little is known about the building. It was constructed in the early 1930s and is known as Casa Judia (or The Jewish Home). The name was given (nobody seems to know by whom) because of the blue Star of David that sits just under the curved lintel: 

I have to admit that I love everything about this entry way: the wooden doors surrounded by ornamental doodads, the green wrought iron protecting the glass (and which may symbolize the Tree of Life), the Dali-esque crenelated watch below the rounded lintel, and the antique-striped colours, which at this portion of the building remain relatively mute.
But the Star of David does not necessarily mean a direct link to Judaism. If it did, then the following building would likely be the largest synagogue in Europe:
It's not. It's Valencia's Catholic Cathedral.
And this building would possibly be the Jewish social centre:
Again, it's not. It's the Palace of Expositions.

The fact is, the hexagram is a symbol of many ancient peoples. It's just that King David - who may have been the world's first and best brander and marketer - added the star to his shield, and ever since it has been associated most commonly with the Jewish people.
Meanwhile, back at the Casa Judia, as your eyes wander up the middle and top portion of the tower, you notice that it becomes progressively more wild and colourful: 

With the piece de resistance being the penthouse suite:

Fortunately, for the architecture lovers amongst you, there seems to be a bit more known about the architect. His name was Juan Francisco Guardiola Martinez, and he was Swedish (one presumes on his mother's side of the family. It will not surprise you to learn that he was a leading disciple of the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.
He built the Casa for a man named Joseph Salom, who was presumed to be Jewish. But to add a little mystery to the building, if you look again at the second picture from the top, you'll see that the initials inside the Star of David appear to be JB and not JS.
Guardiola's other work of great gaudy architecture, which preceded Casa Judia, is up the coast in Barcelona, where it's known as Casa Mora, Casa Chino, and by another few names:
While I was trying to unravel the mystery of Casa Judia, I saw Guardiola's style variously described as Deco, Nouveau, neo-Egyptian and various other things. I disagree with each of these assessments. I simply see it as the iconoclastic style of an architect with a unique vision and a singular way of expressing it.

The world needs more people like that!
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