Colour one’s view - Issue 171 - Magazine | Monocle

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The neighbourhood of El Terreno, especially its epicentre at Plaza Gomila, was once the beating heart of nightlife in Palma de Mallorca. In the 1960s and 1970s it had a joyful, sunny disposition that pulled in visitors and performers alike: Jimi Hendrix and Tom Jones are both reputed to have strutted their stuff here (not together, mind). But then, as mass tourism boomed, a wall of hotels rose ever higher along the Paseo Maritimo, the boulevard that divides the district from the sea, creating a barrier that denuded the views, killed the vibe and pushed people away from the El Terreno strip. Clubs got tackier, bars closed, drug dealing became commonplace. Today? It’s reclaiming its old spirit, in part thanks to the island’s Fluxà family, the owners of the Camper shoe business.

Striking graphics

Miguel Fluxà is a fourth-generation member of the Camper business. Now, along with his wider family and the foundations that they run, he is the developer of a standout project at Plaza Gomila, a point where several roads intersect. Designed by local firm Gras Reynés Arquitectos and MVRDV from the Netherlands (the in-demand Guillermo Reynés once worked for the Dutch studio, hence the connection), it’s a series of seven buildings, all in different hues and materials (from tile façades by Mallorca-brand Huguet to locally made pressed-earth bricks) and with varied roof lines to keep things interesting.

Colour-coded streetscape
Brutus restaurant
Office for Gras Reynés Arquitectos

This dazzling intervention of reformed buildings (including one of the island’s first brutalist blocks, now painted dazzling white) and newly built elements is a miniature town in itself, with homes to rent, a supermarket, flower shop, café, restaurant, a just-added bakery and offices for Gras Reynés Arquitectos.

Fluxà explains the family’s motivation. “Tourism [on the island] started here; singers and celebrities used to come here,” he says. “It’s part of the history. We thought that it was possible to revive the neighbourhood – to make it more like it was and do something good for the city.” Fluxà says that the project has also demanded flexibility and an acceptance that when you have seven buildings to develop, you have to wait to see where it leads. In terms of motivation, he’s wary of using the “legacy” word. “I don’t care whether people know that we’re involved. We are just giving something back to where we come from.”

Bakery designed by Jasper Morrison
Guillermo Reynés
Reformed brutalist building
Saw-toothed and Huguet tiles

Monocle tours the project with Guillermo Reynés, who arrives on his bicycle – a mode of transport that matches the project’s success in being designed to Passive House standards, employing cross winds and external blinds to keep rooms cool and shaded. Reynés explains the colours that punctuate the scheme – a nod, he says, to the Mediterranean location and a neighbourhood that’s equally colourful. He also reveals his deep connection to the area: not only does he have a home nearby; he came here to party as a young man, in the very building that now hosts his offices.

The developer and architects have changed the course of the down-on-its-luck plaza and have created something that serves the people of El Terreno. And while the economics are, of course, a key consideration, it is also clear that all involved want to do something to aid their hometown. To make a difference.

Great expectations 
The project is pulling in many new businesses and now other architects and developers are bringing abandoned buildings back to life. And new nightlife players have arrived, such as an outpost of the upscale Lio cabaret club. But opportunities remain for people wanting to be part of a community making a shift in fortunes for El Terreno.

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