Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Restored Castle of Matrera

Restoring an ancient monument is a delicate business. Do you shore up an existing wall, or redo it completely in modern concrete? When the challenge to restore the crumbling Castle of Matrera fell upon the Spanish architect Carlos Quevedo Rojas, he chose the latter. But did he went too far?

Built in the 9th century, the Castle of Matrera, located on Mount Pajarete, in the city of Villamartín, was once part of a large fortress that was surrounded by walls more than 500 meters long. A thousand years of ravaging storms and countless wars between the Muslim and the Christian rulers had decimated practically everything but the defensive walls and a lone tower. Then five years ago, the tower suffered a partial collapse, requiring immediate intervention.
In order to impart stability to the crumbling castle, Rojas decided to introduce a significant new structure, as a form of reinforcement, that outlined the fortress’s original volume. In doing so, he had totally altered the ruins. The restored castle is now a strikingly white modern design with remains of the original castle embedded within it.

The controversial restoration has drawn criticism and ire from the locals and media, as well as provoking a broad international discussion about heritage preservation from architects and preservationists the world over.

However, according to Carlos Quevedo Rojas, the restoration was in compliance with the Historical Heritage law 13/2007, which prohibits imitative reconstructions and requires the use of materials that are distinct from the originals.

Modern standards for restoring historic buildings discouraged efforts to make them look as they might have when first erected. “You have to distinguish and maintain the historical value and architectural integrity,” Rojas told NY Times. “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.”

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