Willcommen besucher aus dem Urlaub Architektur

holiday architecture photo

Welcome visitors from Urlaub Architekture. The image you see above is a segment from the installation SUNTRAP by New York artist Melissa Marks. The wall painting is in a secluded courtyard to the rear of the cortijada. Plans are in place for an extension to the work in spring 2012.

SUNTRAP is part of our ongoing programme Joya: arte + ecología, an artists residency/opportunity here at Cortijada Los Gázquez. We, through invitation, open call or competition, invite artists who’s work has concerns with environmental issues to come and work here for a short time to experience  the semi-wilderness of this alpine desert.

Cortijada Los Gázquez is in the centre of the Parque Natural Sierra María-Los Vélez in the north of Almería, a place of outstanding natural beauty. Joya: arte + ecología also augments the experience of guests coming here to participate in our creative courses.

We are also a destination for those who like vernacular/new-vernacular architecture, peace and tranquillity, walking, cycling etc.

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A Little Rain in Spain (but not enough)

La Muels from Maimón

A little rain passed this way the day before yesterday, for the first time in months. Frankly we would have welcomed more. The next day we saw this… a sky strewn with wrecked clouds as we look east to the province of Murcia.

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‘Sun Down Yellow Moon’ Los Gázquez sees the end of July..

sun set July 2010

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Moon Bows; addendum (moon seen riding rainbow)

moon rides rainbow

5pm the sun makes it’s way to setting in the west, the moon rises in the east. High wind blows the rain from beneath the weather front passing to the north of Los Gázquez creating this beautiful rainbow.

How many paintings can you think of with a rainbow?

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… or landscapes of Vélez Blanco and the surrounding countryside.

Seasons like these, when the almond blossom bursts into flower, force us to acknowledge that the impact of humanity on the earth’s ecology has been a mixed blessing. However, our long relationship between nature and culture has not been an out and out calamity.


This is a landscape painters paradise, especially at this time of the year. Interestingly the English word ‘landscape’ comes from the Germanic word Landschaft and it signified a unit of human occupation or jurisdiction. So where it might appear that human intervention has manipulated the landscape to correspond to some inner ’spiritual’ concept, it does not. Landscapes are manipulated for food and firewood. American photographer Ansel Adams described the reality of the landscape perfectly, ‘ there is some deep personal distillation of spirit and concept which moulds these earthly facts into some transcendental emotional and spiritual experience‘.

castillo velez blanco 10

Landscape painting came to be used as the backdrop for familiar motifs of classical myth and sacred scripture. And it would be foolish not to acknowledge that the architects of both of Vélez Blanco’s castles were well aware that, despite the presence of water, this hill is a very good place to build your ‘unit of human occupation’, your dominance over land, man and beast.

I say two castles because the first castle was Moorish (the square structure in the foreground), built from stone and adobe it was destroyed by an earthquake in the 10th century. The houses nestled at it’s feet are the old Moorish homes, secure fiefdoms from the ‘reconquistas’ from the north. The second castle is Renaissance and built by the ‘Marquesas de Los Fajardo‘ in the early 16th century.

sagra and clouds

Landscape, and it’s consequent representation, is a depository in which to induce some form of  meaningful  mis en scène. Historically it has had more to do with the human condition than the natural. This landscape is the view from Los Gázquez to La Sagra, a sky strewn with wrecked clouds as the sun sets towards Granada. It is our human nature to draw meaning from the void between reality and the view.

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Hippo Hunting

crystal caves 500

Alas no hippos were seen. Nor giraffe. But we did find an abandoned cave house beneath a Moorish watch tower covered in crystals. Enormous crystals too. To me this is a landscape painters paradise especially at this time of the year, the sun low in the sky stretching shadows across the plain.

valley of the crystal cave 500

We saw sheep with a shepherd, one or two foxes and a golden eagle. But no hippos or giraffe or saber-tooth tiger.

venta micena 500

This is Venta Micena, a stones throw from Los Gázquez up on the alto plano in the province of Granada near the town of Orce. Orce ‘the cradle of European civilization’.

It was here that in 1976 one Josep Gibert and others from his institute of paleantology found a fragment of a human skull which has come to be called Orce Man. It is the oldest homo erectus fossil to be found in Europe which calls for the suggestion that this is the first settlement by early humans in Europe. And they lived side by side with hippos and giraffes and saber-toothed tigers.

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La Muela, Chica Muela and the Moon…

La Muela, Chica Muela and the Moon 500

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Buenos Aires @ Los Gázquez

strange cloud

… or fair winds (60km an hour/38mph) yesterday took the corners off clouds pinning them against the upper atmosphere. The wind turbine took gusts in excess of the average wind speed sounding like a Spitfire in conflict and the solar powered batteries bubbled whilst topping out at 58v.

15.1.2010 sagra

This morning saw the high winds collapse to a light breeze from La Sagra, my Notre Dame, snow capped and peeking it’s peak above the cloud inversion on the Sierra de Oso.

Today is warm and sunny at 18 degrees Centigrade. That’s 64.5 Fahrenheit. Must chop some wood.

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Gázquez in the Mist

misty losgazquez

Thanks to Alice Forward, our Joya resident artist, for this fine picture of Los Gázquez in the morning mist. This is the season for inversions, so expect some spectacular landscapes in the near future.

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Growing Barley


The ‘Alto Plano‘ is the name given to the high land to our west. At 1300m on a heavy clay soil farming can be a hard business. Rainfall is unpredictable and summer sun bakes the earth to be as hard as rock.

It’s a fantastic landscape though. Red sandstone rocks protrude from the earth, hills of boulders support ‘esparto’ grass colonies and ‘Holme oak’s‘ dot the land.

Below is a Google Earth picture spreading westward from Los Gazquez towards Orce and beyond to Baza and the beginning of the Sierra Nevada.


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