Spanish mission style

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 November, 2008, 12:00am

In the 1930s, American popular culture was spreading across the globe. Our forebears loved Coca-Cola, dixieland jazz on the radio and glamorous Hollywood stars on the silver screen.

They loved the Spanish mission architecture in apartments and houses (below right). Known in the United States as the mission revival style, it was all the rage in California in the early 20th century, inspired by the architecture of the Spanish missions built in the southwest by early Hispanic settlers.

Many Hollywood stars of the day lived in these stunning mansions, around Brentwood and Beverly Hills, and so the style found its way around the planet via motion pictures and magazines.

The idea of living in a house that resembled that of a Hollywood star was tempting for cashed-up folks who wanted a bit of glamour in their lives. Many architects were fans of Spanish mission because the shaded porches and dark interiors made homes more suited to semi-Mediterranean climates.

And so Spanish mission houses began to appear in wealthier suburbs from Johannesburg to Sydney. Sydney's most famous residential home - Boomerang - is in the Spanish mission style (and was the set for the Spanish party scene in Mission Impossible 2).

A good place in Asia to see Spanish mission-style architecture is on the island of Cebu, in the Philippines. Having been settled by the Spanish, this is the real thing.

The style has distinctive features such as arched colonnades with twisted, barley-sugar columns; arched gates, doorways and windows; and painted timber shutters. Houses are made from brick with a stucco render applied in rough swirls, mimicking the mud brick adobe of the original models. Rooves are covered in ochre terracotta tiles, often with a chimney or faux bell-tower.

Many Spanish mission homes and flats are finished in white, cream or, best of all, pink ... very Melrose Place.