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Designer and 110 owner Chiara Ferrari

It’s Friday night and more than 200 people have come to 110, a studio space in the town of Inca in the heart of Mallorca. They are here for an evening of Pecha Kucha, a Japanese presentation format where every speaker has to show 20 slides and talk for no more than 20 seconds about each one – speak too fast and there are hard-to-ignore silences before the next image appears, speak too slowly and suddenly the automated slides are whizzing past and you lose your chain of thought. But it’s a generous crowd: they have beers and, like all seven speakers, are drawn mostly from a diverse mix of creatives established on the island – gallerists, writers, photographers, potters, furniture makers and at least one philosopher. They are here to be supportive.

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Ferrari's apartment
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Studio space with archive and guest bed
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Tools of the trade

The host, who is the owner of this vast studio, is Italian-born interior and product designer (and educator) Chiara Ferrari. She has organised every element of this night, from designing the social-media promotional campaign to securing the beer sponsor. She seems to know everyone and is a strong advocate for Inca, even though she only bought this then-derelict 1934 leather factory in December 2021 and moved into the space in April 2023. She’s that kind of person: a connector.

Before we meet Ferrari and tour this two-storey, 400 sq m building (her home takes up the top floor), you need to know where we are. Inca is an industrial town where, at the start of the 20th century, nearly everyone was employed in the making of shoes, whether in the factories themselves or in the suppliers of everything from rubber soles to laces. At its peak, there were more than 2,000 factories here; today that has dwindled to a handful. The trade was hit in the 1980s and 1990s when, faced with a barrage of cheap competitors, many companies either moved production offshore to places such as China or collapsed. (Camper is still a key presence, even if much of its production is elsewhere; Carmina makes its high-end footwear here.) Inca has had some testing times and even now, right in the centre of this important town, there are many empty industrial buildings. But something is stirring.


The speakers – an island of creatives

 

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Esmeralda Gómez Galera
Curator and educator
Gómez Galera is opening Highlights Contemporary, an art office and platform for curatorial research in Inca.

 


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Juan Palencia
Architect
Palencia runs Isla architecture and design practice with partner Marta Colón. Their work is deeply rooted in place.

 


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Xim Izquierdo
Photographer
Izquierdo is a photographer who produces work that ranges from commercial to art, fashion and music.

 

 


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Gemma Salvador
Co-founder
Salvador is the co-founder (with Eugenia Marcote) of Llanatura,acircular wool company.

 

 


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Roberto Paparcone
Potter
Italian-born Paparcone (founder of Paparkone) is a longtime resident whose work is often inspired by island traditions.

 


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Xisca Homar
Philosopher
Homar is an Inca resident, neighbour of Ferrari and author of Filosofia Salvatge (“Wild Philosophy”).

 


A couple of days after the Pecha Kucha, monocle catches up with Ferrari, whose career before Mallorca included stints working in Milan (for Piero Lissoni), London (Zaha Hadid, Ross Lovegrove, Thomas Heatherwick, Amanda Levete) and Los Angeles (running her own studio and teaching at ArtCenter College of Design). How did she end up switching California for Inca? “I was shuttling between LA and a client in Germany and I got tired of it,” she says. “I thought, ‘I need to find somewhere to live in Europe that I know a little and where I can ride my bike.’ I used to come to Mallorca with my father and so I chose here. I thought it would be for a few months but I just stayed.” And she’s not joking about the bikes. Her great-uncle was Alfredo Binda, a champion cyclist, and she was born in the Alpine town of Edolo, so her passion for the saddle is understandable.

“I started thinking about how to bring the space to life. My ideal was what Carla Sozzani did in Milan with 10 Corso Como”

Ferrari initially looked for space in the capital, Palma, but prices were high for even the most compact of properties. “Then Inca popped up as an idea because of the building,” says Ferrari. “I came to see it, fell in love with it and reserved it – without knowing what it would take financially to refurbish it.”

It would take money and time to transform the building. It needed structural reinforcement, windows had been blocked up, services were absent, the top storey had been unused for years, while the ground floor had been a car park. Ferrari reused everything she could from the site and had the original terrazzo flooring buffed back to life. There were also a thousand versions of the plans, simplified again and again (she worked with a Mallorcan architecture practice, ar3, at this stage) to keep costs down. Ferrari made key interventions, including cutting out part of the first-floor slab to allow for the creation of a courtyard garden at the rear.

The outcome is breathtaking. You enter through epic grey sliding doors, emblazoned with a giant “110” (the building’s street number), into the studio space with a glimpse of the foliage in the rear courtyard garden. There’s a curtained-off space here that contains Ferrari’s archive and a bed for visitors. Then you ascend to her private world, where a small shock of colourful furniture and design, and an impeccable selection of art, punctuate the room like exclamation marks (her father, another person who has shaped her tastes, was a sculptor). It’s pristine, a world where consideration has gone into every detail.

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Pecha Kucha night
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Entrance to 110
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Part of Llanatura’s presentation

But something happened as the work on this building progressed. “During the renovation, I started thinking about events, about how to bring the space to life,” says Ferrari. “My ideal was what Carla Sozzani did in Milan when she opened 10 Corso Como [the celebrated concept store and dining space]. I have invested everything I have in this place – so now I have to get the best out of it!”

Getting the best out of 110 started almost as soon as the paint had dried. She offered 110 to a philosopher neighbour for the launch party of her new book. “The place was packed,” says Ferrari. Since then she has moved quickly. “My passion is to do something for the island. There is no point of reference for design here – a place for people to meet physically. I’m open to ideas but we need events that are out of the box. I’m doing this because we need to be an island of creatives.”

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Entrance to the former leather factory
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View of the newly inserted courtyard
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Clean lines in the bathroom
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Apartment table with artwork by Fabio Viscogliosi
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New terrazzo first-floor terrace

People could have been cautious of a new arrival in town with so many ideas and such energy. But Inca has taken the irrepressible Ferrari in: she’s working with the town hall, has made friends not only with the creatives but the likes of the fishmonger too. What does she make of Inca? “The people are open-minded and welcoming, and it is picking up,” she says. “The city is doing lots of things culturally and there’s energy propelling things forward.”

At the Pecha Kucha, I end up speaking with several people in the process of searching for buildings in the city – there are a lot of incredible projects taking root, artists hunting for studio spaces, fashion shops opening. Inca, it seems, offers the chance to experiment.

There are many reasons to celebrate this project but perhaps what’s best is the idea that you can set about making a personal, private space but allow it to become somewhere that can host all manner of collaborations. A simple “for sale” sign triggers a chain of events that leads to 200 people descending on an industrial town reimagining its future, all for the promise of a cold beer – and of being part of something bigger, of joining forces. 
110mallorca.com; chiaraferrari.com


Inca address book

1. Miceli is a celebrated restaurant in the nearby town of Selva but it has an outpost at Inca’s indoor market where you sit at the bar (pictured below) and eat the freshest of produce. It gets its fish from the neighbouring counter belonging to Peix Can Mateu.
miceli.es

2. Café Inca is in a wonderful linear building by ar3 and mdba architecture studios. It’s run by Amadip Esment Fundació, an organisation that works with people with mental health issues – the site also includes a residential element. It has a great design and great food.
esment.org

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Barra de Miceli
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Llanatura

3. Llanatura is a non-profit wool company, housed in a vast former factory (pictured above). It makes rugs, furnishings and clothes, and has numerous collaborations with designers. Llanatura works to protect the island’s ecology.
llanatura.com

4. The Museum of Footwear & Industry is housed in a former barracks in which it details the long history of the trade in Inca.
museu.incaciutat.com

5. Architecture. It’s worth wandering the streets to take in the scale of the industrial heritage still awaiting resuscitation. Plus there’s the remade Teatre Principal, some gems of Catalan modernisme design and a great brutalist petrol station.

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