Marina d’Or: Speculative Landscapes

Marina d’Or is a strip of urban development at the Spanish Mediterranean coast, wishing to become Las Vegas and failing to emulate Dubai. This Holiday City had initially planned 3 golf courses, a casino, 40,000 apartments and an indoor ski resort. Altogether, it should house 200,000 dwellers with their own security department. Set in a former agricultural landscape and wild Mediterranean forest, it is one of the largest New Towns in Spain resulting from construction excess. And like the others, paralysed in time and awaiting a better future. Very few traces survive from its former chaotic greenness and I wonder whether urbanisation will eventually prevail over nature. Budget for public gardens sinks every season and alien sand is under constant menace of flowing away. Meanwhile, Marina d’Or has attracted attention from Emirates investors who could potentially see some opportunities on it.

All buildings share a “seashore typology”. It consists of maximal optimisation of the seafront: narrow façade and deep slim blocks with terraced roofs. In most plots, there are two parallel blocks linked together by a common front towards the sea. The majority of the apartments do not face the water; but they have a diagonal view instead, so that the most amounts of people may enjoy supreme views. Housing blocks look like cruise ships of concrete. However, their shape does not respond to aesthetic symbolism but to a literal result of speculative real estate-led urbanism. Instead of suburban single-family houses, there are 7-9 storey dense collective blocks. Could this compact mode result in a more respectful way of urbanisation? If the same amount of development was to be done using low dense constructions, a larger coastal strip should be deteriorated.

Astonishingly, the fact that ca. 50-60% of the apartments seem to remain empty makes the narrow strip of artificial beach enough for such a low population. At least, one policy has been respected. All constructions leave a 100m gap between sea and buildings. Beach sand progressively turns into a green lawn, separated only by a blurry fringe where artificial irrigation ends and public property begins. Environmentally disastrous as it might appear, the site is very beloved among pedestrians, even branding it as “ecological site”. Both beach and lawn are open public space for residents and non-residents.

Marina d’Or makes use of evocative naming, in order to meet certain lacks characteristic of such an urban development. If they want to make the whole city look more cultural and intellectual, they simply name their brand-new streets after well-known writers, such as Rafael Alberti or Jorge Guillén. If they want to transmit a higher quality of beach feeling, they simply name their housing compounds after Acapulco or Caribbean Sea. If they want to have a marine water spa without having natural springs, they simply call it “Marine Spa” for using water from the nearby sea.

I regard Marina d’Or as the ultimate seasonal shrinking city, losing more and more temporary visitors. This real estate speculation was an utter ecological disaster, but surprisingly, I experienced one of the most interesting private/public space encounters in such kind of new towns. Are we in front of a new strategy for business-oriented landscape? Could original wilderness end up re-claiming its territory after business phase is over?

[all images> Marina d’Or: Speculative Landscapes by deconcrete2011]

One Comment

  1. The 4th photograph from the bottom has a really interesting effect: the buildings in the background, with their symmetrical, sloping rooflines and matching brown hue, together form a ridgeline, the silhouette of a dune or hill, but instead of a natural topography, its a slanted wall of condominiums.

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