I‘ve been keeping a watchful eye on the monumental Château d’Aubiry since it first hit the market in 2011; a stunning 1500m2 Art Nouveau palace complete with Gustave Eiffel-designed greenhouses situated within a 12 acre park. I was taken aback this morning however, upon discovering that the property is now being peddled for nearly half the price on Le Bon Coin, a rudimentary classified advertisement site in France, equivalent to Craigslist or GumTree. It’s a free online network that comes in handy for selling furniture, posting personal ads, job opportunities, couch-surfing and whatnot, but there’s something surreal about hawking a French historic monument through the same website you used to sell your old refrigerator the other week…
Château d’Aubiry is located on the mountain chain of Les Aspres, close to the historic town of Perpignan and the Spanish Border (Barcelona is 150 km away). At the dawn of the Belle Epoque, French industrialist Pierre Bardou-Job had made his fortune selling cigarette paper invented by his father, but he was also a dedicated patron of the arts and an avid collector of eclectic curiosities. He commissioned the Danish architect Viggo Theodor Dorph-Petersen, a celebrated talent amongst the bourgeoisie of the epoch, to design a château for each of his three children.
The Château d’Aubiry was intended for his son Justin, but Pierre Bardou-Job would never get a chance to see his grandiose offering, as he died suddenly in 1892 just before the start of the construction.
When it was completed in 1904, the palatial home boasted 40 rooms, including a theatre, observatory, photography lab, library, billiards room and 15 themed bedrooms, many of them themed, one decorated in honour of the last emperor of Indo China Bao Dai.
Frescoes throughout the castle were painted by Parisian artists Gervais and Henry Perrault and the greenhouses were designed by Gustave Eiffel.
The castle passed from generation to generation to descendants of the Bardou family until 1973 when it was bought by another French industrialist, Mr. de Pra who still owns it today. It remains a private property but in 2006, the Château d’Aubiry earned its protection status as an official French historical monument.
The house has been very well-maintained and preserved over the years, and from what I can tell, even most of the furniture has been left in place. In 1960, the French cult film “L’Eau à la Bouche” was shot almost entirely at Château d’Aubiry….
The bedroom decorated by the Bardou family in honour of the last emperor of Indo China Bao Dai, pictured left in “L’Eau à la Bouche” in 1960 and right, present day.
In movie stills from the provocative Nouvelle Vague film, you can recognise much of the décor and furniture that appears in the agency photographs taken within the last few years.
Here are a few more shots from the movie which follows the story of a love-triangle at the Baroque castle…
Movie still sourced from L’encinémathèque via here
Sadly, what I consider my favourite feature of this historic property is the one that’s suffered most from the passing of time. The glasshouse has been severely damaged by rust over the years and nearly destroyed entirely when it was gutted by a recent fire. The design by France’s most famous architect consists of three 16 meter-high domes, linked by galleries measuring 108m long, but there’s barely any glass left to speak of. On the upside, it’s a dream DIY project– reviving Gustave Eiffel’s lost greenhouse.
Oh yes, this art nouveau greenhouse palace certainly has potential. Even the listing on our French “Craigslist”, Le Bon Coin, says the property has major “tourist potential”. In 2011, the property debuted on the market with high expectations. The prestigious international real estate franchise of Sotheby’s, set the asking price at €21 million. There were rumours of a South African buyer, perhaps inticed by the property’s several hectares of vineyards, but 5 years down the line, and here we are, stumbling upon the Château in the classified ads while browsing second-hand IKEA furniture. Aubiry is now listed for €12.6 million.