Restoration of Medieval Spanish Castle Sparks Outrage and Debate

It’s safe to say we can all agree that the preservation of historic ruins is a worthwhile effort, but just how it’s done is proving to be a point of contention for residents in the southern Spanish town of Villamartín.

As reported by The Independent, El Castillo de Matrera (Matrera Castle) has stood atop a grassy hill near Villamartín since the 9th century. It’s been a national monument since 1949, and when rainfall and floods caused extensive damage in 2013, plans to renovate the privately owned castle were already in motion. Those plans were tweaked to accommodate the new state of things, but the result has set off a fierce debate. Both locals and conservators are now arguing over whether the project, with its incorporation of new materials to secure the remains, has in fact ruined the castle.

Cultural heritage association Hispania Nostra called the restoration “truly lamentable” in a post on its website, but architect Carlos Quevedo Rojas, who oversaw the project, told The New York Times that it was approved ahead of time by town authorities as well as the culture and environment departments of the Andalusia government.

“I understand the criticism of local people used to seeing the tower look a certain way,” he told the paper, “but the principal objective was to prevent the collapse of the structure.”

Quevedo Rojas continued: “You can’t make the structure have the same appearance as the original. You can’t falsify the appearance. It has to be clear which parts are new and which are old.”

Another defense of the renovation: it met its three basic goals to “to structurally consolidate those elements that were at risk; to differentiate new additions from the original structure—thus avoiding imitative reconstructions that are prohibited by the law; and to recover the volume, texture and tonality that the tower would originally have had,” Quevedo Rojas told The Guardian.

The incident has prompted many to draw comparisons to another Spanish preservation fiasco: In 2012, 83-year-old Cecilia Giménez tried to restore a fresco of Jesus and the resulting work became an Internet meme and an attraction in its own right.

[h/t The Independent]

Banner image via Twitter.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]


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