• The hydrological landscape The hydrological landscape

    The utilization of water - a scarce, precious resource in the climatic and cultural context of the Mediterranean basin - has given rise in Mallorca and the Tramuntana area in particular to the construction of a complex network of traditional architecture related to water-harvesting techniques. The aim of these constructions is to collect and harvest underground or surface water and transport, distribute and store it. Throughout history important systems have been designed for the regulation and [...]

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BUILT LANDSCAPE

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Towns and villages

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In the Tramuntana area there is a wide spectrum of towns and villages, ranging from larger ones such as Sóller, Andratx and Pollença to small hamlets like Orient, Ullaró, Biniaraix, Sa Calobra, Llucalcari, Biniarroi, Binibona or Binibassí, also including other villages that are extremely interesting in architectural terms, for example Fornalutx, Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Estellencs or Deià. The latter two have recently been declared Items of Cultural Interest within the Historic Site category.

It is in these towns and villages that, logically enough, a large part of the architectural heritage of the Tramuntana area can be found, as well as many other items that define the urban landscape: public washing places, mills, public wells, and large houses. In them, buildings ranging from imposing inns to very simple rustic houses can be seen, whose location determines an urban grid made up of narrow alleyways, sometimes adapted to the mountainsides as in the cases of Bunyola, Estellencs or Banyalbufar.

The orography and network of roads, sloping steeply to adjust to the terrain, and the shape of building plots give rise to tortuous, winding streets that bestow an irregular, singular character on these towns and villages. This urban topography is partly due to their Islamic past, although we must point out that Islamic farms were much smaller and old quarters of towns and villages grew significantly in the 14th century. As streets were built in towns and villages, plots were divided up, and they are usually narrow and high at the front, which conditions the type of houses (as opposed to houses on the island´s plain which usually have a broad, low façade).

Some towns and villages, such as Valldemossa, Estellencs, Banyalbufar or Fornalutx, still have a very well-preserved traditional urban landscape even today, thanks to the fact that limestone was used to construct the buildings, and due also to their cobbled paving, which in some cases was incorporated in the 20th century after burying the rainwater drainage system.

Although modern buildings, Baroque ones and others in the style of popular architecture prevail in towns, there are interesting Gothic, Renaissance and also Modernist examples. This latter style is concentrated basically in the town of Sóller, but also, to a lesser extent, in Bunyola. Together with contemporary buildings in historicist and regionalist style, the Modernist ones are a clear testimony to the prosperous economic situation and emergence of a moneyed bourgeois class in the town of Sóllerin the late 19th and early 20th century. They have all contributed to defining a new urban profile for the town.

Over the centuries, the complex water supply systems have been organized into irrigational communities that still survive today and structure the periurban garden areas of most of the villages in the Tramuntana area. The villages´ growth generally overlaps with this agricultural structure.

One interesting example of popular art in towns and villages are the painted tiles that adorn the cornices of some façades. Sóller and Fornalutx are two municipalities on the island with the largest number of inventoried houses (56 and 27 buildings, respectively). In spite of their being known as teules de moro (literally ´Moor´s tiles´), the tradition appears to date back to the 16th century. These ornamental features were made by placing the tiles in lime and subsequently painting them red using a mixture of linseed oil and red ochre. They bear geometric and vegetable motifs, features of everyday life, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, religious themes and a large quantity of inscriptions. As well as their decorative value, they have a symbolic value associated with protection of the house and its inhabitants.