Controversial castle restoration earns global architecture award

Work on Matrera tower had been described by scholars as “bringing shame to Spain”

Matrera castle following its controversial restoration.
Matrera castle following its controversial restoration.EFE

A controversial castle restoration in southern Spain has earned an award from a New York architecture organization.

Work carried out on Matrera Castle, in Villamartín (Cádiz province), won the Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award after being shortlisted by a panel of jurors in the A+ Preservation category, for “projects that preserve and enhance the existing built environment.”

Now I suppose there will be another commotion, but from the other point of view

Carlos Quevedo, architect

“We’re very happy,” said Carlos Quevedo, the architect in charge of a project that had been derided by Spanish heritage preservation groups. “After all the criticism, this is an acknowledgment of all the work that was done over the course of five years.”

Quevedo will be traveling to New York on May 12 to pick up the prize. Last year there were more than 200,000 votes cast in the Popular Choice Awards, according to organizers.

The restoration had been the subject of controversy and reported in the international media.

Built in the ninth century, the castle bears the designation of an Asset of Cultural Interest. Scholars were particularly critical of the restoration work on the tower, which has been raised back to its original height by adding a smooth, white, modern-looking wall.

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It was even humorously compared with the botched restoration of a religious painting by a local woman from Borja (Zaragoza).

“It brings shame to Spain. The international press has called it the worst restoration in the world,” stated Carlos Morenés, vice-president of Hispania Nostra, a non-profit that works to defend Spain’s natural and cultural heritage.

Quevedo says he submitted the project to the Architizer A+ awards in January, before the controversy erupted.

A jury of 300 specialists selected five finalists from New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Cortrique (Belgium) – and Villamartín.

Quevedo sought to play down the dispute, and said he feels rewarded for his work.

“We believe that all opinions are respectable and that all debates are enriching,” he said. “Now I suppose there will be another commotion, but from the other point of view. It’s a reward.”

English version by Susana Urra.


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