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Archive for Architecture

Fundacio Vila Casas / Can Mario / Palafrugell

Well, it’s a beautiful water tower that once fed this former cork factory and now it’s quite rightly a space for contemporary art. Regrettably the published hours of opening were so complex we haven’t so far gained entry. I’ll report back…


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Castell Gala Dali

Ok, first of all I’m not a fan of Salvador Dali. But when I realized that the Castle he bought for Gala was half an hour away we couldn’t resist. And I’m so pleased we went. It has some classic ‘glam’ seventies interventions in the village of Pubol’s medieval castle. And strangely it was very tasteful (which is probably an unfair comment but when you consider the kitch he surrounded himself with in the 70’s!). I liked his orange Datsun in the garden along with fireplaces and furniture…






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Las Puertas de Lorca

las puertas

Today we strolled around Lorca in the sunshine, the old town, buying art materials for next weeks ‘En Plein Air’ creative course. It’s well worth a visit as you can see.

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Los Gázquez and the Alternative Technology Association of Australia


Here at Los Gázquez we are delighted to have been invited to write an article about our ecology systems for ReNew magazine, the publication of the Australian Alternative Technology Association. It came via association member, and friend of Los Gázquez, Lee along with his partner Merryl. (G’day to you fair folk in Brisbane).

If anyone should be interested in reading the article and the magazine in general (which is very good) you can contact them at If  you would like a copy of the transcript you can contact me via a comment at the end of this post.

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Wanted / Volunteer for ‘green build’ studio

studio 2

Cortijada Los Gázquez is looking for a volunteer who (either with experience or is just keen and able) would like to volunteer to help out with a green build. Naturally board and lodging is on the house and all they would have to do is get themselves here.

The construction will be a modification to an existing building in order to convert it into a second studio for the Joya residency. The construction will be cordwood and cob built within a post and beam type of construction. All materials will be taken from our land.

Expect the experience to be rewarding and hard work with lots of sunshine and good company.

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‘The Crime of Nijar’ part 2

cortijo los frailes

Last week we were taking a small break in the Cabo de Gata national park in Almería and on the one inclement afternoon, whilst taking a drive down some of the dirt tracks, we came across this, El Cortijo los Fraile.

cortijo los frailes chapelWe have known about this building for a while but had never actually found it until this day. If I have translated things correctly it was once a farm run by Dominican monks in the dusty dry desert in this corner of Andalucía. More importantly it was the scene of a famous ‘real life’ crime of passion.

In July 1928 an arranged marriage was to be held here in the chapel at Los Fraile, the bride was a young girl, Paca Canadas. However Paca was in love with her cousin Paco Montes, not her fiancée. The story unfolds with the slaying of Paca’s cousin at the hands of the fiancée’s family to save the family’s honor.

What is also fascinating is that this story was reported in the Madrid Herald as ‘the crime of Nijar’ and read by a young Federico García Lorca.

fraile chaper interiorHe, in a burst of creativity, hurriedly penned the play Blood Wedding. However this is Lorca and the play is no simple reportage brought to the stage. It is a play rich in symbolism, exploring themes of death and individualism vs. society as well as women’s role in society.

This is my ‘through the key hole’ photograph of the chapel where the young Paca would have been sold off by her father in  marriage.

cortijo los frailes ceilingThis was (and still could be) a fantastic monument to Almerían agrarian history. The building still possesses some fine 19th century architectural detail such as this beam and cane roof. The chapel still supports it’s belfry (just) and it has many outlying buildings of interest as well as it’s original covered well or alijibe.

cortij los frailes pig styesFor a decade now there have  been protests that this historic building has been allowed to decay. Over a year ago the mayor of Nijar claimed he wanted to take the building into public ownership and have it restored. Alas nothing has happened and every day sees the building becoming beyond repair. The mayor claims that ‘any restoration would have to be compatible with some sort of economic activity that would develop the area’. I can only presume he means a golf course or a hotel complex. What more justification would you need to save this building other than the history I have just briefly laid out in this blog.

Well here is a thought…

spag west

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was filmed here. Not just in Almería, but here at this cortijo. They have even had an enterprising group from Texas called The Alamo Draughthouse come over and have an open air viewing of the film outside the cortijo which was very successful.

And  here is another thought…

nijar bowlThis is a Christmas present I found for my wife Donna. I was very excited to find it as nobody really makes traditional Nijar pottery like this anymore. And, between you and me, we would like to start a collection.  What we like about it is the way they have made the decoration. It’s exuberant and slightly reliant on the chance effect. You may see a three point triangulation in the centre of the bowl, well, the pattern would have been hastily painted on and the bowl then turned upside down to allow the coloured glaze to run and then fired standing on these three points.

There are two interesting things to note here. One is that there is, in my estimation, a lot of this pottery in circulation in the back pantries of all the old folk in this region, and secondly they do not attribute any value to it.

And there you have it. Why isn’t anyone attributing any value to this history and culture. Perhaps it’s easier to celebrate your past by naming a new street after Lorca or printing a leaflet called Ruta de Spaghetti Western whilst the real material returns to the earth to be forgotten.

Government here often makes claims to wanting sustainable and cultural tourism in the region, well here it is. Don’t give me sun, sea and sangria give me history, culture and untouched tracts of land for wildlife.

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Land Systems @ Los Gazquez

land-systemsHere at Los Gazquez we have a new scheme, an experiment with the techniques of Permaculture.

If you have never heard of Permaculture it is basically a design system for human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in the natural ecology. It was conceived in Australia in the 1970’s by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison.

Their idea was to rapidly train individuals in a core set of design principles and then those individuals could go off and design their own self sufficient communities which wouldn’t rely on industrial systems which were exhausting the earth’s resources.

For our purposes we intend to use Permaculture water harvesting techniques to revive a dried up well. And the aim is to do this without resorting to ‘bore holes’ to find a more abundant water supply, but to create a water supply by the subtle exploitation of gradient and organic mulches.

The red dot in the centre of the drawing is the old dry pozo or well. It is a covered structure with a door and is about four meters deep. Below the well is the balsa or small reservoir to which one once would have deposited the water taken from the well. The acequia is the canal system introduced by the Moors to Spain and is used to transport the water from the balsa to the terraces below (or growing zones).

To start we are going to restore the fabric of the pozo and clear the old balsa of vegetation and undergrowth. Crucially this organic material is not going to be lost but kept for using as mulch.

Next, above the pozo we are going to dig a series of swales, indicated in purple. A swale is an English word to describe a low or hollow place or marshy depression between ridges. The  swales will vary depending on the topology of the area and will vary in width and length but the depth will be in the region of 800 to a 1000 mm. The interior walls will be supported by dry stone walls. To the lower side of the swale a large mound of organic material, collected when clearing the land for the project, will be placed.

The idea is that when scarce rainfall does occur the swale fills with water. Being on a gradient the captured water will sink into the earth. However and crucially, the mulch on  the downside of the gradient will act as a sponge, gently supporting the water table being created beneath it nearer the surface. The principle is that the two fold action of the mulch is to support a water table beneath the surface by osmosis and  to severely reduce evaporation from the surface.

In time a water table should establish itself and ultimately feed the old well again. And in turn we can fill the balsa and use the acequia to  irrigate the terraces below and start growing organic crops for the house.

It sounds so easy I know, but this is an experiment and I shall make this an on going column on my blog with it’s own page.

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Portable Bull Rings

blanco's portable bull ringIt’s fiesta time here in the Comarca de Los Velez and this year Velez Blanco has a portable bull ring. If the funds are there they should build a new one. Not for bullfighting though but for real art and culture.

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La Vida Verde 1 (coming soon)


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Eco-Hotels of the World Unite…


Here at Los Gazquez we are very pleased to announce that we have just been awarded a five star rating for our ecology systems by ‘Eco-Hotels of the World’.

You can find our listing here.

Thank you EHOTW.

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