Thursday, January 18, 2018

In An Abandoned Way

Tucked away not far from the bullring in Alcudia is what remains of a one-time club or disco. You wouldn't know it was there. You would have to go and look for it. I just happened to come across it. I have long meant to find out more about it, though whenever I've mentioned it, I have drawn blank looks.

This is a case, if you like, of unobtrusive abandonment. The place has been left to rot, but it doesn't offend the senses; that's because it's hidden. But there are numerous examples of obtrusive abandonment. Mallorca is littered with them.

Alcudia has a fine or rather not so fine example of this - the ruin that it is the Es Fogueró Palace. Once upon a time this was the grandest of all night spots. Julio Iglesias performed there. It's been closed for 25 years, and no one knows what to do with it. The town hall came up with a plan a few years ago. The idea was to restore the building and relocate much of Alcudia's nightlife to it. The thinking was, given its location and the location of the existing nightlife, that it would provide the perfect solution to problems with noise. The nightlife businesspeople didn't consider it to be perfect. The plan was scrapped.

Opposite this abandoned edifice is the industrial estate. At long last it might actually be used. And once life is breathed into it, then - so other thinking goes - Es Fogueró can be revitalised. It's not clear how or indeed why, but that's the thinking, which might be defined as: think straw, think clutch.

Abandonment occurs for all manner of reasons. Businesses go bust or are no longer viable; people die and there is no one to inherit (or willing to pay the tax) or the family engages in a feud; some legality or other intrudes; something new comes along; there is no more need. Wherever you might be in Mallorca, you won't have to go far to find abandonment. It's everywhere.

Solutions are sometimes found. Political imperatives ensure that they are. The transformation of Son Dureta is a case in point. No one seemingly ever applied any thought what to do with the hospital once Son Espases opened. President Armengol is right to have said that it couldn't have continued as it was. More than just obtrusive, it was offensive. When there are clear needs for people's health and welfare, then it couldn't just carry on being unused.

With Son Dureta there is only a functional issue. There have been no demands that it had to remain for architectural or heritage reasons. With other examples of abandonment, these are the reasons, however justified or unjustified they might be. Which brings us of course to the Gesa building.

What was it about some legality or other intruding? God knows there has been enough legality surrounding the Gesa building. The latest court ruling appears to establish that it doesn't actually belong to Palma town hall but to Endesa. Whoever owns it, no one is taking any care of it. Yet it has a protected status, meaning an obligation that it can't just be left to vandals and graffiti artists.

But the protected status is, for many, a nonsense. Preserve industrial or commercial heritage by all means, but the Gesa building unfortunately has little going for it, other than the fact that the revered architect Josep Ferragut was responsible for it. And the reverence paid to Ferragut may owe at least something to the question marks surrounding his murder.

The town hall has floated some ideas as to how to use the building, but again there seems to have been straw-clutching in a desperate attempt to justify it remaining, when many would argue that it would be better to demolish it. A question then, if that decision were ever taken, would be who pays for the demolition.

Endesa has other form in this regard, most obviously the old power station in Alcudia. Again, one does have to ask, as with Son Dureta, what anyone thought was going to happen with it after it was decommissioned. The industrial heritage lobby insists that it should stay, Endesa ideally wants shot of it, especially as the company has now sold the old Poblat Gesa estate opposite (designed by Ferragut), the one that Endesa itself allowed to deteriorate into a state of abandonment.

There is so much of this stuff, not all of it as obtrusive as the Gesa building. There are the old houses in village centres, invaded by rats and pigeons. Certain town halls, Felanitx is one, are finally trying to get something done. And there are the other relics of the industrial past, for example the Can Morató carpet factory in Pollensa. Their futures drag on and on. Their abandonment continues until finally someone has a sensible idea. Son Dureta is, however, an exception.

No comments: