Back in Malmö after a few days of great weather and interesting explorations along the south east coast of Spain. Particularly Tarifa was a very pleasant experience. Very chic. When I look through my folder structure in Lightroom (the application I use to organize and “develop” my images through), the folder within “Europe” that has the most destinations after Sweden is Spain. I must really like Spain.
And yet I have a hard time defining my feelings for the country and if I actually want to live there – again. On the one hand, I really love the climate and geography – which remind me of my native southern California. The sun, coastline, beaches, mountains and palm trees make me feel right at home. The diversity is fantastic. I also enjoy much of the Spanish cuisine. Especially the stuff on sale at local markets – like the olives above from the spectacularly beautiful Mercado Central de Atarazanas in downtown Malaga. And I find most Spaniards to be both friendly and good-natured – despite (or, thanks too) our linguistic differences. One day soon, I hope to be able to speak fluent Spanish as I once did as a child in L.A.
On the other hand, there’s a brutally shabby side to Spain that makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Not from a esthetic perspective. It’s more socieltal qualms I feel. Driving up and down the coast we saw some of the most horrendously ugly towns and villages – most of which were seemingly inspired by Sovjet era urban planning (or, rather, lack thereof). Even in the middle of Malaga, where I would think someone within the city’s administration would at least take a peek at design proposals before granting construction permits, we saw mucho samples of architectural misfits. Still, Malaga is like I wrote in an earlier post, considerably more pleasant today than just a decade ago according to what I’ve read. And yes, there were numerous areas we walked through that I could consider living in. Soho being just one.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Spain’s architectural mismatching, and why, in a country so naturally beautiful and famous for its designers as well as architectural wizardry from the likes of Gaudí, Calatrava and artists Dali and Picasso, it continues to thrive.
The conclusion I came up with is simply, corruption. Pay enough to the right folks and you get to do pretty much anything you want in Spain. That said, I’ve also come to understand from folks that do business in the country that corruption isn’t at all as blatant or upfront as it once was during the Franco era. Today, corruption is somehow more sophisticated – masked and camouflaged by an extreme bureaucracy, not too dissimilar of a pyramid scheme; the higher up you are in the bureaucratic pecking order, the bigger the feed gets. So, as long as you’re willing to grease the inner workings of permit committees, regional and local government officials, it’s fairly easy to fill a hillside or a coastal valley with an armada of hideous high-rise towers.
I’m not arguing that Spain is any more corrupt than say, France, Italy or practically any county I’ve ever visited (close to 100). It’s just more visibly obvious. Especially along Costa del Sol, around Barcelona, the suburbs of Madrid and surrounding Palma. In addition to being standalone eyesores, the landscape these concrete monstrosities inhabit and dominate, however stunning, live in the shaddows of and become so “uglified”. But the corruption/beauracracy aspect of doing business inevitebly titls the playing field in favor of those that are in the know and have the means to take advantage of it. And it’s this moral corruption that feels so hopelessly wrong and utterly undemocratic.
Maybe I’m just being snobbish and unfairly comparing more purposefully designed and economically built housing solutions to my comfy, esthetically pleasing, exotically heterogenous bubble here in Västra Hamnen. Yeah, that’s probably the case.