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Luis Rico Pinilla

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Visiting Information

Although the side yard where the castle is located is fenced, much of the exterior of the construction is viewable from the street.

About the Artist/Site

Growing up in the small village of Sanchonuño (Segovia), by the age of 15 Luis Rico Pinilla migrated north, following an older brother up to Bilbao in order to earn a better living than that of his father, who spent hours laboring in the fields with little recompense to show for his backbreaking labor. While his first foray in Bilbao was to an art supply store to buy oil paints and brushes, he knew that he hadn’t left his family home in order to become an artist. Keeping his focus on earning a living, he had several shorter-term positions before landing a job at Petronor, the huge oil and gas company, which he held for 34 years, taking early retirement in 2009.

While living in Santurtzi with his family, Rico saw the beautiful roadside property on the outskirts of nearby Zierbena, and purchased it with the intention of building a home and enjoying the spectacular mountain vistas. Yet it took twenty years for the municipality to grant him the permission to build, during which time he continued his interest in art, painting canvases and creating tiny replicas of castles and churches out of cardboard, glued together and painted. Finally, when he was given permission to build, he had to construct a holding tank for rainwater, as there was no potable water on the property. Doing so on the hillside to the side of the large and modern house, he decided to take advantage of this concrete tank, and to use it as the base to build an even larger castle, this time out of concrete and much larger in scale. Rising five meters (16.4 feet) high and with a built interior of forty square meters (430+ square feet), he used a variety of recycled and found materials to create his fantasy castle. Plastic cones, stones gathered from the fields near his natal village, farm implements, and even a mannequin dressed as a princess in Disney-style gown have been assembled to create this multistory structure with surrounding “inhabitants,” gnomes who “work” at landscaping the lawn or surveying the surrounds. This construction is, he is quick to point out, sculpture, and is not or will never be a living space.

While Rico’s “castle” was completed around the year 2000, he continues to work on it, repainting it as needed, installing a solar light system so that it can be lit at night, and maintaining its various components. At the same time, he continues to create little maquettes in cardboard and wood of other cathedrals and castles, some of which he has exhibited in local venues; one day, he hopes, some of these might also be able to be scaled up for passersby to enjoy.

Although the side yard where the castle is located is fenced, much of the exterior of the construction is viewable from the street.

~Jo Farb Hernández



Map and site information

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Visiting Information

Although the side yard where the castle is located is fenced, much of the exterior of the construction is viewable from the street.

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