In 1973 the so-called Muralla Roja was inaugurated in Spain, a particular residential complex built on a cliff in Calp, about sixty kilometers north of Alicante, on the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the colors and shapes of the buildings that compose it, which almost seem to come out of a work by Maurits Cornelis Escher, the complex is considered the most “instagrammable” place in Spain: for years, however, residents have been complaining about the heavy traffic people who try to sneak in to take pictures, sometimes even hurting themselves, and this is not the only problem for those who live there.
The Muralla Roja was conceived in the 1960s by the Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill i Levi, who to create it elaborated a precise geometric plan which, according to him, evoked “a constructivist aesthetic”, that is, recalling the avant-garde movement born in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century , according to which among other things art had to have a social function. For the Bofill complex he was inspired by Mediterranean architecture, and in particular by the fortified citadels typical of Arab cities: the result was a series of buildings connected to each other by external staircases and communicating terraces, in which a swimming pool, various solariums and a sauna are integrated .
Although it is known as the “Red Wall”, the outer walls of the complex are also painted in other colors, including various shades of pink, purple and blue. For Bofill the use of color was functional, just like the shapes: red accentuated the contrast with the landscape, while blue, indigo and violet produced an «optical effect of fusion» with the sky and the sea, helping to «create a greater illusion of space».
Also in Calp, Bofill built other buildings, such as the La Manzanera club, which was located on the beach under the same cliff as the Muralla, or the Xanadú, which Architectural Digest España has defined as «an experimental prototype of a garden city with various levels and heights» inspired by the Peñón de Ifach, a rocky outcrop overlooking a nearby natural park.
Bofill’s buildings were in stark contrast to the architectural style of the Costa Blanca, the name of the portion of coast on which Calp is located, and gave a great boost to tourism also internationally. However, what attracted the most attention was the residential complex of Muralla, which included around fifty apartments and over the years was visited and photographed by thousands of photographers, tourists and onlookers, also becoming the set for commercials and music videos.
Some residents heard from the País said that the place’s fame began to increase in particular from 2014 thanks to the commercial of a shoe brand. Since then, even more commercials were filmed there and even more tourists arrived: to give an idea, there are currently more than 21,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag #murallaroja.
As understandable, the comings and goings of onlookers create various inconveniences for the residents, who a few years ago installed a fence around the building to try and discourage them.
Salvador Ros, owner of one of the apartments in Muralla and president of the residents’ association, told al País that some people still try to sneak inside, and if they are kicked out they become aggressive; others instead try to climb over the fence, doing damage or hurting themselves.
Another resident named Isabel said that both she and her neighbors call the police every day, but “they don’t pay any attention to us anymore”; she always she Isabel said she had to call the ambulance twice to help people who had hurt themselves by climbing over the fences.
In addition to the traffic of tourists, there are also problems related to the management of the building, which is administered by the community of owners, and the difficult relationship with the Municipality.
Ros explains that the income obtained from the permits to shoot the commercials (about 3,000 euros for a day of shooting) is essential to meet the maintenance costs of the building. In 2022, 140 thousand euros had been collected from the commercials, all intended for the whitewashing works: in total, however, the interventions for the conservation of the building amounted to around 500 thousand euros. In 2014, however, the Municipality of Calp proposed to include the Muralla among the assets of cultural interest in Spain, but the residents complained that they had not received any financial support when it was needed, and that further attention would only make the situation worse .
Controversy has also recently emerged, given that this year, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the construction of the complex, various events will be organized to celebrate Bofill and his architectural works in the local landscape. The events scheduled for the so-called “year of Bofill” include exhibitions, conferences and gastronomic appointments, while in November there will be an international architecture congress which, according to the organizers, also includes guided tours of the Muralla. Again the residents do not seem to agree. “It’s a normal building where people live,” said one of them: “I don’t want any visitors. I don’t want strangers in front of my house. I don’t want it to become Disneyland.”
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