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Thread: Urban form in Tenerife

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Urban form in Tenerife

    Some holiday snaps? More like some thoughts on urban form in a different country.

    Puerto de la Cruz (Formerly Puerto de la Orotava), is an old shipping/fishing harbor that became a tourist destination, largely post-war. By way of introduction here are some typical building styles.

    A vernacular house (with some modern additions, not least the spiffy paint job).



    A typical Belle Époque building in the town center (there are a couple dozen of these left).




    NOW, ABOUT THAT URBAN FORM.

    From Punta Arena beach you can look East-North-East and see this:



    "Corbu sur Mer", or: Bulgarian slabs to house the masses of sun-seekers. These sorts of buildings went up from the 1950s up to the early 1990s. Were it not for the pitch-black volcanic rock sand, you could be anywhere. There is a sense of busyness but not of complexity. The buildings are plopped down like pods from outer space.

    Looking West-South-West (i.e. 180 degree opposite) the view is very different. Here we have a local construct. This is purely local in character but tourists are beginning to buy/rent here. They wouldn’t have dreamed of it 10-20 years ago.



    The key aspects that captivate me here are 1. The organicity and complexity of the urban form





    and 2. The Barnacle-like nature of the buildings, clustered on a rock, bashed by the waves but presumably ok with it.



    Certainly, this is not faux nautical, it’s the real thing, warts and all



    It’s interesting how complexity (almost fractality) can produce such an organic feel given that the micro-geometry is all orthogonal.



    Life and death of great pattern languages

  2. #2
         
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    Luca, I travel the world vicariously thru your camera. Thanks.

    I assume the large block buildings were built by foreign investors from Europe. Have any started to adopt the local form and incorporate it into new development now that it is found acceptable by the tourists?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Investor base is mixed between local landlords, foreign money and continental Spanish money.

    Generally speaking, it's supposed to be impossible to build those kinds of high rises now but new-builds for toruists are typically either a so-so pastiche of 19th century, fancier forms (predating what you see here) or, more commonly, standard issue "mediterranean" low-rise vernacular but usually on too broad a scale.

    I don't entirely accept the "only organic growth works" theory but in this case it seems to be totally true. The organic, one-house-at-a-time settlements are uniformly charming and have very interesting characteristics. The commerical developoments pretty much all suck.

    I actually think Art Deco would work fabulously in Tenerife for a number of reasons.

    here is a vernacular-Art-deco(ish) example there

    Life and death of great pattern languages

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    It's been almost 20 years since I've been to Playa de Americanas in Tenerief. Looks about like it did then. One beautiful feature (and I'm sure this isn't unique) was the wide sidwalks/plazas that front along most of beach. It's similar to San Antonios river walk with shops fronting on the walk, except instead of the river you have the beach and sea.

    Watch out for the folks from north Africa selling carved elephants and "gold" chains.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Kind of a tangent ... but I´ve been traveling in Spain recently, and been quite impressed with aspects of urban form in the larger cities. Sprawl seems almost nonexistent - the city just stops in a coherent line of 6 or 8 story buildings that overlook empty countryside. Pulling out of Madrid´s main train stations for example - after about 7 minutes of rolling through the city (at low speed), you´re in open fields that look pretty much like the middle of nowhere. Anybody know why this is the case in Spain?

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