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Outrage in Matrera Over Botched Castle Restoration

Before and after pictures of Castle Matrera. (Photo by The Guardian)

Before and after pictures of Castle Matrera. (Photo by The Guardian)

A botched restoration attempt in Spain has garnered international attention and condemnation from locals, historians and conservationists. Located in Villamartin, a city in the province of Cádiz Spain, the crumbling Moorish castle has been wrecked in an bungled attempt to save it from further destruction. The castle was built in the ninth century by Christian convert, Omar Ben Hasfun (850-917 AD), and was last officially used five centuries ago to defend against Moorish incursions. The 1100 year old ruin was already in a delicate state after heavy rains caused its final vault to crumble three years ago. Recent complaints over inaction to protect heritage sites in Cádiz prompted conservationists and city officials to undertake a restoration project to salvage what was left of the ancient structure.

The result which added in a shiny, new, modern looking wall, outraged locals and historians while provoking a storm of anger and mockery around the globe. Architect Carlos Quevedo, who oversaw the project has been the target of derision on social media.

Twitter exchange between Spanish cultural group El Pais, and readers regarding architect Carlos Quevedos efforts to restore Matrera castle.

Twitter exchange between Spanish cultural group El Pais, and a reader regarding architect Carlos Quevedos efforts to restore Matrera castle.

Spanish cultural news organization, El Pais tweeted out humorously, ‘Is Castle Matrera the new Ecce Homo de Borja? The before and after its restoration’, referencing the disastrous restoration of 19th century artwork, Ecce Homo, by an elderly woman in 2012. A reader replied condemning Carlos Quevedo’s work, saying, ‘The head is the architect Carlos Quevedo. The restoration is a shame.’ Quevedo shot back, saying his vision was to try and recreate the castle as it would’ve been seen hundreds of years ago, but Heritage groups and conservationists are not having it. Others have dubbed it the “Franken-castle”.

Twitter comment calling the restored Castle Matrera a "Franken-Castle"

Twitter comment calling the restored Castle Matrera a “Franken-Castle”

Clearly, there appears to have been some miscommunication here between the architect and the intentions of conservationists. From a personal perspective, this kind of reminds me of the Royal Ontario Museum renovation debacle a few years ago in Toronto. I hated the new addition to the beautiful, old Victorian building, but some people loved it. It’s very difficult to marry old-and-new in a seamless way that pleases everyone and does justice to the original structure. In the case of the ROM, at least space was being created to expand exhibits, in this instance, there isn’t much positive to say about this addition to an ancient castle.

~Sandra Alvarez

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