The Andalusian patio came to me naturally the moment I started piling up bricks for an Idea submission. It was my first project, and it made sense to depict something I am very familiar with. I grew up in Southern Spain, and although I have never lived in such a house, blocks of flats are the norm for most of the population - they are part of our landscape and culture.
The long summers with high temperatures have forced traditional architecture to look inwards: a central patio with plenty of shade, water, and plants, cools down the house, while the plain, whitewashed walls reflect the sunlight off. On the outside, these houses are quite unassuming. A bare wall, with some wrought iron windows, hides a lush oasis of greenery and colour inside.
The model captures a moment in which a family gets ready for the Feria celebration in April, when traditional dresses add even more colour to the landscape. The little brother and sister love watching their mum, dad, and elder sister dance and play the guitar. Their hand fans are part of the dance, and the women also play wooden clappers (“castañuelas”, for which I have used the plume feathers part). The “peineta” or large comb is also part of the traditional dress. The little girl tries to imitate their movements, while the boy is recording with his phone from the balcony. Grandma is quietly observing while she tends to the little jungle around the central fountain. On the roof, grandpa has stopped mopping the water dripping from the clothesline to save an unsuspecting bird.
The whole scene is a charming family moment, deeply rooted in the imaginary of Southern Spain, but with universal value.
I did not copy any particular house for my model, but rather worked from memory using details from the many ones I have seen in Sevilla, Córdoba, and other towns in Andalusia throughout my life. The house may very well be one of the many representatives of the 1920s revival of traditional techniques, known as “Regionalista” style. There is, though, a strong influence of the stately houses in Sevilla, which popped up in the XVI and XVII centuries. Many of these follow the model of Mudéjar art from the XIV century, which I adopted for the ground floor. Here we find an eight-pointed star-shaped fountain, a motif that is widely used in Mudéjar decoration. The spouting frogs are not that common, but there is at least one fountain in Sevilla that boasts them (do note that the water arches are transparent bananas!) The patio is enclosed by the also traditional zócalo or plinth made of glazed bricks, with geometrical patterns. I tried many different arrangements until I decided on this one, it was one of the most challenging features in the build (which took a couple of months to complete). The upper part of the walls is decorated with flowers and ceramic plates. The floor is terracotta, in the common chevron pattern. The columns are typically made of marble, the only expensive material in such houses, where brick, plaster and wood are used to great effect. I tried to recreate the beautiful “alfiz” feature, the rectangular shapes with plaster decoration that frame the arches, but at this scale I had to resort to triangular printed plates (the breathing mask of a rather famous villain). Finally, the mullioned windows are better appreciated in the pictures from the rear.
The first floor is normally more austere, and often an addition in Renaissance or Baroque styles. The shape of the arches and the balustrade favour the latter. The roof is rather plain, but the glazed spheres with a copper shine are common in revival architecture, and bring back memories of the older houses in the neighbourhood where I grew up. The bougainvillea flowers climbing down the walls are also unforgettable, and thus I had to add some.
One thing that is often overlooked in LEGO models are the ceilings. Normally just the underside of the next floor, here I tried to reproduce the magnificent woodwork panelling that is one of the treasures of Mudéjar art, found not just in Andalusia but across some of the most beautiful buildings in Spain. At this scale I could not go into much detail, but at least I could come up with star patterns with gilded “mocárabe” in the centre (the stalactite-like cones), and “casetones” or coffers in between.
The furniture is rather heavy-handed, with dark wood and leather-bound chairs. I am especially proud of the carved chest, that shows geometrical patterns in the style of those under the ceiling or along the plinth. Instead of a proper door, the exits to the patio are covered with beaded curtains, which leave the flies outside while letting the air in.
The set comprises 2654 parts, plus 7 minifigures:
- Little brother, with mobile phone
- Little sister, with hand fan
- Dad, with guitar
- Mum, with traditional flamenco dress (red), hand fan and clappers
- Elder sister, also with flamenco dress (green), hand fan and clappers
- Grandma, with watering can and scissors
- Grandpa, with mop and bucket
- Plus a cat, two birds, and three butterflies!
It features different building techniques to portray the different spaces. Most remarkable is the need to align the half studs that were left by combining the arch 1x2 jumper, the modified plate 1x3 with 2 studs, and the arches 1x6x2, for the colonnade. Also, the complex wooden ceilings make extensive use of the modified tile 1x3 inverted with hole.
Do note some unusual parts use: the aforementioned bananas as the water spouts, the binoculars as gate locks, the feathers as clappers, or the Mohawk hair as strelitzia flowers.
There is some universal appeal to this set. I decided to focus on a family moment in the outstanding beauty of a traditional Andalusian patio, which should be both fun and educational to construct. But also, flamenco dance and music are well known and appreciated throughout the world, and the set could be easily rearranged to portray a show. Just move the potted plants away, clear some room and add some extra chairs (not included), and you can focus the scene on the performers. There is no better backdrop for a flamenco show than a gorgeous patio rooted in the tradition of Southern Spain!