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jardin_ibicenco_black whiteThe Ibicencan Garden (I). A Brief History & Botanic Guide

The Ibicencan Garden (I). A Brief History & Botanic Guide

The garden and wild flora that we know today on the island has been largely the result of the different cultures that settled in the Pitiusas throughout history. The ships brought seeds and plants from distant lands that were used for the cultivation. Not all seeds germinated equally in the island’s clayey, calcareous soil, nor did those plants thrive to survive the arid climate without the help of an effective irrigation system. After several centuries, some of these plants managed to acclimatize better than others and have been included in the catalog of indigenous plants and are today considered endemic to Ibiza and Formentera.

Among the multitude of conquerors who came to Ibiza, three cultures in particular stood out because they had the greatest influence on the introduction of new species and agricultural systems:

1. The Phoenicians (1200 BC – 200 BC) were the great merchants of their time. They founded one of their most important colonies in Ibiza, which meant the true beginning of a solid settlement and cultivation on the island. Having under their control a vast trading network and interaction with other civilizations across the Mediterranean, the phoenicians introduced a large number of new crops and techniques to the island.

2. The Muslim conquest of Al-Andalus and the subsequent Caliphate of Córdoba (AD 900 – 1235) meant a new era of prosperity and abundance for Ibiza, which left two centuries of dark periods of changing dominance of the vandals behind. With the arrival of the Arabs, new plant and fruit tree species were introduced, but above all were the modern cultivation knowledge such as the cultivation of the terraces and the most advanced irrigation systems of their time.

3. New plants and a series of cacti came from the Spanish colonies of Latin America, which adapted perfectly to the island conditions and now make up a significant part of the native flora. These new species from the new continent have been used by the local population for a number of purposes.

Here you will find a short guide to the most characteristic trees, palm trees and cacti of the Ibizan Garden with a brief description of their origin and use:

Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) – Its cultivation was extensive in the Arab era, but it is unknown if it is an indigenous tree. The fruits ripen in autumn acquiring a brown color. Carob was normally used as feed for livestock and was used to combat colds. Today considered a superfood and also used in the manufacture of medicines and cosmetics.

The carob trees provided shade in good times and nourishment in bad times. It was especially in the post-war period, when the general famine led to the harvest of a fruit that had hardly been considered before. Animal feed saved the lives of their owners, and later generations paid the debt with affection.

Carob Tree (Ibiza, 1956). Photo: Raoul Hausmann

Almond (Prunus dulcis) – growing wild 6,000 years ago, it began to be cultivated in Central Asia and was probably introduced to Ibiza by the Phoenicians. The almond tree had to be one of the first crops because it was very common in ancient times.

The tree adapted well to the light, calcareous, dry and stony soil of Ibiza as well as the temperate climate, with mild winters and little wind inside the island. It adapts so well in some areas of Ibiza that it blooms in early January. A beautiful natural phenomenon called the “snow” of Ibiza.

Giant Reed (Arundo donax) – was an everyday element of rural life in Ibiza, and came to the island from northern India and Nepal in the 16th century. The farmers used it for various purposes: for tomato plants to climb, to create enclosures for the animals and to create baskets. The cut reeds were later burned. The reed fields were regularly cut and kept under control, but when most of the field work was abandoned, this has led to unprecedented expansion of the reed, and this has recently become a problem for the island’s biodiversity.

The slender reed swaying in the wind in the dry waterbeds seems to beautify the landscape and to be a characteristic element of these habitats. It is incredibly hardy and sometimes even populates dry terrain or salt water lagoons (Ses Feixes).

Prickly Pear or Nopal (Opuntia ficus-indica) – is a cactus of Mexican origin, which was introduced by the Spanish conquistadors in Europe and is very common today. In the finca, it was used as a natural separation element, as a windbreak, as a primitive toilet or as a discrete waste disposal site.

The nopal has an anarchic growth form, which forms a complicated tangle of logs, on which flat blades covered with spikes grow one above the other in completely random order, from which grows a spherical fruit covered with thin, almost invisible needles. This fruit, called prickly pear, has been an important part of the local diet since its arrival on the island and the scoops have been used to heal injuries. Medicinal properties are attributed to the prickly pear. Today it is one of the most popular diabetes remedies. Their tender fruits are prepared liquefied with water or eaten raw or in a salad. The boiled root is also said to be a good remedy for gastritis and intestinal colic.

Holm oak or acorn (Quercus ilex) – formerly populated the forests of the Balearic Islands; but deforestation from the 17th to 20th centuries in Ibiza has led the holm oaks to be a rather rare tree. They are usually seen near rural farms for the use of their wood, which is highly valued for its hardness. This wood was used to make utensils and carriage, in addition to making charcoal. The acorns, are edible for both human and animal use and the bark was used for medicinal purposes, as healing and anti-inflammatory.

A close, bush-like relative, the Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), is found in the interior of the island, feral near torrents and the forests surroundings.

The biggest holm oak on the island is the Bellotera de Can Carreró, located near Benirrás, seven meters high and a crown 20 meters wide.

Bellotera de Ca’n Carreró in Sant Miquel. © JOAN COSTA

Pomegranate (Punica granatum) – fruit tree of Asian origin, probably introduced by the Phoenicians or Carthaginians. In the past, a dark red pigment was extracted in the Balearic Islands to dye clothes, and the bark of the roots was used to fight intestinal parasites. The fruit is considered a superfood and powerful antioxidant, containing a large number of vitamins and minerals.

The pomegranate is a tree perfectly adapted to the climate of Ibiza and can be seen throughout the territory in the wild.

Fig tree (Ficus carica) – originally from Asia Minor and introduced by the Phoenicians. As an exceptional survivor, it grows easily even in poor or very calcareous dry areas, thanks to strong roots that slowly but steadily grow in depth to maintain groundwater. Indeed, it is recommended to plant the fig tree in an isolated place in the garden, away from the house and pool or any other structures, as it could easily lift the concrete over time.

The fig tree can grow both inside the island and on the coast. Because of its tendency to grow at low altitudes, it can withstand occasional strong winter winds. It should be noted that, apart from the nutritious fruits that we all know, fig trees offer a dense, fragrant shade under the tree top in the summer heat.

The listed fig tree known as na Blanca d’en Mestre, located in the extension of the camí vell de la Mola, in Formentera, is more than one hundred years old and has an enormous crown, supported by juniper struts, which reaches a horizontal surface of between 300 and 350 square meter.

Fig tree na Blanca d’en Mestre, in Formentera. Photo: Pilar Arcos

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) – Plant native to China and Japan, probably introduced by the Arabs. Its adaptation is good to the Ibizan environment, but it appreciates the irrigation in the driest months.

It has been better known as an ornamental tree, but it produces a sweet and succulent oval fruit, with a flavor halfway between peach, citrus and mango. It is an excellent diuretic and helps to eliminate excess fluids in the body.

Lemon tree (Citrus × limon) – it is estimated that it originated in China and came to the Mediterranean via Greece. Like the loquat, it was originally used as an ornamental tree. It is one of the fruit trees that has best adapted to the island’s climate and requires minimal maintenance. Excellent source of vitamins and a strong alkalizing agent.

Olive (Olea europaea) – originally from the s. I a. C., reintroduced by the Phoenicians. The olive has sustained the Mediterranean for millennia, providing fruit, oil and wood and a sense of historical importance in its gnarled and ancient branches.

The most magnificent of the trees is an ancient olive tree known as n’Espanya, located in San Carlos. It is believed to be over 800 years old and with a perimeter of 10.5 meters, it is one of the oldest olive trees in the country.

Palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera) – original from North Africa and introduced by Punic peoples (Phoenicians and Carthaginians), where it was planted near water points to take advantage of its edible fruits, the dates – which are a great source of minerals, so It helps to recover muscles, ensures the proper functioning of the nervous system and strengthens bones and teeth.

Apart from its fruit it was appreciated for its elegance and beauty, reaching a considerable height. The palm tree was also a symbol of social status and was used to be planted individually or in groups near the house.

Llegada principal a la finca Can Mariano Prats

Sentry plant (Agave americana) – originally from Mexico and – like the prickly pears – introduced in the early 16th century. It is very drought-resistant, with the leaves forming a rosette at the bottom of the stem to guide the water to its base. The vegetable fiber is extracted from its large bluish green leaves to produce Ibiza’s historic footwear, the Espardenyes.

The cactus, locally called Pitrera, can live up to 100 years and only bloom once (monocarp). The flowering consists of a 5-10 meter high and branched stem with yellow flowers. When the flowers die, the plant dies. Fortunately, before dying, they tend to produce numerous shoots that spread easily.

Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) – native to Syria, today the most common tree on the island. The wood was mainly used for furniture and firewood, the bark was exported to dye leather, and the waterproof resin that was produced when the juice was cooked was used for shipbuilding and other household chores. This pine is considered to be very resistant and aggressive, colonizes the environment and acidifies the soil to such an extent that only a few species of shrubs and plants can survive in its shade. For this reason, the trees removed the jaws when they appeared in the fields of the cultivation.

Stone pine (Pinus pinea) – unlike the Aleppo pine, this grows very differently and requires more water. It is also a tree that is completely indigenous, Spain being the country with the most specimens in the world. Its prized fruits, pine nuts, are of great nutritional value and contain 2/3 of the proteins in veal meat.

The Pi ver d’en Besuró is the largest specimen on the island, featuring a 12-meter tall height with a 25 meter wide crown and around 100 years old.

Sabina (Juniperus phoenicea) – was introduced by the Phoenicians in ancient times. It offers extremely strong wood that helped build the island’s houses, villages and settlements, while the sap served as an insect repellent resin. The trees themselves were carefully cared for, gently cultivated and made to grow straight and strong.

It is possibly the most emblematic tree in Ibiza and is currently classified as the island’s cultural heritage. A group of ancient Sabinas are located near Sa Rota in Santa Eulalia, a unique tree complex that is listed and protected as a historical heritage.

Grapevines – also introduced by the Phoenicians, but saw the era of maximum popularity in the 19th century. Later the plague of phylloxera arrived in Ibiza and the cultivation decreased. However, the residents have never stopped growing wine. Today the cultivation has expanded massively and the wine that is produced in Ibiza has even attracted attention outside the island. The island offers small valleys surrounded by mountains that are very suitable for viticulture. The soil, which consists of limestone, Dolomites and marl, is mostly clayey.

The “Sant Mateu Wine Festival” is celebrated in December in the village of Sant Mateu, and at this festival, in which people from all over the island participate, the locals present the young wines.

In addition to this selection, other plants such as orange trees, apricots, plums and vines complete traditional agriculture. The wheat and other cereals were mown in May. The red clay soil is fertile as long as it has enough moisture. During the summer, when it is not raining, most of the fields remain unused. Few farmers grew vegetables. The islander’s demand was met by transports from the mainland, and the exports were predominantly the carob fruit and salt.

There are characteristic elements of infrastructure and irrigation that have been of great importance in promoting a more productive crop on the island. These techniques were largely introduced by the Arabs – since they came from the driest desert areas on the planet and had developed (the still) most effective methods of water extraction. These elements are the following:

Terraces – were introduced during the period of Muslim rule and are very common in the length and breadth of the mountainous landscape of the island. These are terraced stone walls along the sloping terrain to create horizontal areas that are suitable for cultivation. They were created in steep terrain of more than 30%, where horizontal excavations were not possible.

Cisterns – usually underground cisterns that are filled by collecting rainwater. They are used in places away from rivers where there are no springs and wells, or where the groundwater is hard and salty and cannot be used to supply people or animals.

Acequias – is an open trench or canal that was built for irrigation or water supply. With the particular development in Arabic culture, these constructions have affinities for use with the Roman aqueducts, although their main use is to irrigate orchards, plantations or fields, using the orography of the site for the distribution and management of water from the networks of the Main channel.

Wells – were developed to optimally use the groundwater before many groundwater veins were exhausted due to overuse and the desalination of sea water had to be used. Meetings and festivals took place around fountains and springs, symbols of life and regeneration in many peoples of the world.

All of these cultivations and constructions are reminiscent of the past of an agricultural island with poor soils, scarce water and a diverse population history. Centuries of invasions and looting followed by hunger and neglect led to a culture of resilience and ingenuity in Ibiza.

Globalization has facilitated access to materials and ideas on an unprecedented scale, but Ibiza’s cultural heritage is still very much alive as a model of self-sufficiency and connection with nature, which for many can be a fundamental part of personal well-being.


Ferrer Abarzuza, A. (1974). La casa campesina de Ibiza. Madrid: Narria. [consulted 10 de abril 2020]

Gurrea Barricate, R. y Martín Parrilla, Àngeles. Eivissa-Història-Època andalusina. EEIF (Enciclopèdia d’Eivissa i Formentera) [consulted 5.6.2020]

Espinosa Noguera, J. Guia Botànica Sa Punta d’es Molí. Ajuntament de Sant Antoni de Portmany. [consulted 10.5.2020]

Blakstad Design Consultants. Heritage: The singular trees of Ibiza. [consulted 1.5. 2020]

Convalia, C. Sanean y apuntalan la mayor higuera de centenaria de Formentera. Diario de Ibiza. [consulted 1.5.2020]

Fallingwater,_also_known_as_the_Edgar_J._Kaufmann,_Sr.,_residence,_Pennsylvania,_by_Carol_M._HighsmithTraditional vs. Contemporary Architecture. The Energy Challenge

Traditional vs. Contemporary Architecture. The Energy Challenge

Vernacular architecture has evolved over many years to address the inherent problems of housing. Through a process of trial and error, populations have found over the centuries ways to deal with the extremes of climate. However, the influence of Western culture is omnipresent and the tendency to an internationalized construction style has resulted in a reduction of traditional solutions.

Logically, modern inhabitants demand higher standards of comfort in their homes. Such standards can be achieved through the use of machinery like air conditioning systems, which have considerable initial costs and an even greater energy demand in the long-term. However, with the careful use of traditional techniques it is possible to create thermal control improvements, since there are clear advantages to drastically reduce energy needs and a greater use of architectural style can create a more pleasant living space.


Fallingwater, by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1934) /Photo: Carol M. Highsmith (public domain)

This does not mean that designers should imitate the paths of the past. Modern materials, technology and innovative construction techniques should be used in the search for efficiency and profitability. Despite this, ignoring our architectural heritage and overlooking the accumulated wisdom of the past involves neglecting the inevitable challenge for greater energy efficiency need in the s. XIX.

The wisdom of popular construction provides us with the protection of unfavorable climatic conditions and achieve a comfortable microclimate are the primary objectives of this architecture, as well as design buildings that are in harmony with the harsh climates of its various regions.

In traditional architecture, the internal thermal regulation mechanism is incorporated in the building itself. It takes into account the topography, construction, morphology, even the layout and use of internal spaces participate in the function of the mechanism of thermal regulation.

However, internal conditions abstained considerably from the current comfort requirements. Rapid and spectacular advances in the technology of heating and air-conditioning installations for refrigeration, as well as other technical innovations and international design influences, have displaced the architecture of traditional values and principles.

Mechanization and internationalization led to the rejection of traditional methods and the lack of knowledge of the physics of construction deprived the structure of the building from its basic skills and left it at the mercy of the climate. Modern buildings have become climatically inept, with air conditioners replacing natural cooling, assuming a high energy consumption, as well as a cost reduction for construction companies and a huge profit for the energy industry.

Submission of architecture to the machine also leaves some problems of basic comfort conditions in the interior unresolved; such as cost problems, maintenance of mechanical facilities or energy over consumption. In Great Britain, for instance, buildings have shown to absorb a huge percentage of total energy consumption that reaches up to 50% of total on average.

Fossil fuel scarcity, as well as the growing degradation of the environment, have awakened the interest of the use of more ecological materials, processes and energy sources and has made it necessary for our modern buildings to provide shelter with the least possible expenditure of energy.

Casas Bioclimáticas ITER – Sur de Tenerife

This gave rise to a new approach to bioclimatic architecture, which considers the building as a whole from the beginning stage as a place of energy exchange between the interior and exterior, the natural and climatic environment. Consider the building as a living organism; a dynamic structure that uses the beneficial climatic parameters (solar radiation for winter, sea breezes for summer, etc.) while avoiding the most adverse climatic effects. In this approach, the mechanical systems are integrally interconnected with the architecture and must be taken into account as fundamental elements of the building.

This new approach seeks to evaluate the energy demands for heating and cooling in buildings, first of all analyzing the free energy systems that are available. The preliminary analysis of bioclimatic terrain graphics for architectural design allows to outline strategies for an appropriate building location in any season of the year, which could considerably reduce the energy cost and minimize the need for mechanical means, while considering high standards of modern comfort criterias.

It is clear that the task of the modern architect is considerably more complicated than that of the ancient builders. The demands of modern life introduced new factors and considerations into the design of buildings beyond the relatively “basics” of the traditional lifestyle. As technology advances and life becomes more demanding, the judicious and optimal organization of complex variables that involve technical, social, utilitarian and cultural aspects, still converge in the creation of cosiness and convenience for the inhabitant. The priorities of the architect in the design process is therefore altered; machines become more important in the production of comfort standards. In addition, as the feeling of ‘comfort’ is a subjective perception, it varies from person to person from one culture to another and over time. Therefore, it is unfair and wrong to judge thermal comfort levels in traditional buildings for the same pattern we use for modern ones.

However, the tools, materials and techniques available to the modern architect are more than the indigenous builder could ever have dreamed of. In addition, the architect has the advantage of the accumulated knowledge of his predecessors. Through the union between the traditional viable approach to construction and the complex design criteria of contemporary practice, recommendations can be derived for maximum energy efficiency in the building.

In addition to these two main elements of traditional architecture that mitigate extreme weather conditions, the organization of spaces and their orientation, other architectural solutions that reflect traditional wisdom and are used in modern passive solar architecture are identified. These components are the varied designs of windows and their shading devices, such as blinds, screens, pergolas and overhangs.

Of these, the courtyard, the overhangs or side walls and the manually operated shutters were tested in a series of parametric optimization studies and it was discovered that the more complex houses with a U-shaped patio, save more energy than the simple forms. This was attributed to the additional factors involved in the thermal performance, with the introduction of carefully chosen parameters in the optimization studies that act as regulators in the house, such as the enclosing insulation and the orientation with more surfaces exposed to the south. It has become obvious that an effective pattern requires thermal studies for each building with its own geometry, configuration and particularities of an integrating design approach.

For the shading, it was concluded that the optimized design of overhangs and lateral walls, without shutters or blinds, could provide sufficient summer sun control to maintain thermal comfort inside. The application of blinds is often limited by a series of environmental, architectural, economic and behavioral design considerations. The solar control function could then be carried out as a secondary function and the blinds could be installed mainly, if necessary, for privacy or security. However, the conclusions of studies reinforced the belief that the intention of the inhabitants of the Mediterranean in regards to shading of the blinds was for the maintenance of interior comfort.

The passive responses of traditional architecture to local environmental conditions and influences represent a treasure trove of knowledge and information patterns for modern sustainable and bioclimatic architecture. Therefore, successful climate design should not ignore the accumulated experience and wisdom of our ancestors, but should develop after a deep understanding of the scientific knowledge, rather than an emotional assessment of traditional architecture. The architectural expression must respect regionalism and be based on a multidisciplinary design approach.

Mass knowledge and technology from modern industrial development should not be ignored either. Therefore, architecture must be a synthesis of both, the aspects that are in harmony with traditional values and at the same time adequate for contemporary societies, their cultural identity and human scale, based on appropriate technology.


Serghides, Despina K. (2010). The Wisdom of Mediterranean Traditional Architecture Versus Contemporary Architecture – The Energy Challenge. The Open Construction and Building Technology Journal, 2010, 4, 29-38.



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Title- Ibizan Traditional FincaThe Ibizan Finca. A Guide to the Traditional Home of Ibiza

The Ibizan Finca. A Guide to the Traditional Home of Ibiza

The traditional rural house of Ibiza, also known as Ibizan finca, has been an object of study and fascination by many important people of several fields over time. What these first visitors found was an architecture that had hardly changed over the centuries, dated back to ancient origins. This was mainly because Ibiza, during most of its history, was a culturally and economically isolated society that had to use local resources and knowledge, the only ones available. The method of construction of this house came from a popular wisdom that was transmitted from generation to generation, pursuing subsistence and practicality. It was this practicality, together with simplicity, the functionality of each element and its integration into the landscape, which inspired about this unique archaic architecture and attracted the first visitors to this ‘remote island’ in the 1930s.

Among the architects who were drawn by the Ibizan farm house are Germán Rodríguez Arias or Josep Lluis Sert, from the GATCPAC group, or Erwin Broner, from the Bauhaus school. It also attracted well-known characters from other fields such as the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann, artist and photographer, who made a lot of photographs of these constructions, or the philosopher Walter Benjamin, writer and literary critic, who delved into his aesthetic theory attracted by the austerity and beauty of the Ibizan finca. Some of them spreaded this archaic architecture style in international exhibitions and, although the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the arrival of fascism interrupt the process, years later more scholars and artists continuously revisited and settled in Ibiza, motivated by this same fascination.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

The Ibizan country house is defined by a building type of thick walls, composed of quadrangular modules and horizontal ceilings supported by wooden beams. It is a simple and sober architecture, which begins adding independent cubic modules that are articulated about a transverse rectangular space at the entrance, the main hall or porxo; each module has its own function and animal corrals are always separated from the main body. The whole set shows a fully functional home, often entirely absent of decorative elements, growing in relation to the needs of expanding the family or labour of the lands. It is also a continuously growing home, that at all stages keeps the appearance of a finished building.

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Left to right: 1) Can Toni Martina, in St. Carles de Peralta. 2) Can Vicent Prats, in St. Antoni de Portmany. 3+4) General trend of enlargement

No Ibizan finca is ever the same as the other, what is common among houses prior to the industrial era, but all fincas have certain features in common that define them as an own architecture style. These general features of the original finca are:

Materials. Built by the farmer, it is essentially made of materials found in the same place: dry stone, juniper beams for the roof, sand, clay and marine plants.

Implantation. The house is ideally located on a high point of the side of a hill with rocks as natural foundation, taking advantage of landscape features and slope without overflowing on ground favorable to the cultivation.

Orientation. The entrance is almost always facing south, leaving behind the mountain, protected from the north winds and thus continuously receiving sunlight.

Absence of ornaments. It is shown as a primarily austere, practical and functional home, surrounded by fields and fully adapted to the needs of the time in which it was built. Subsequently, decorative elements would arrive such as arches and balustrades of carved wooden forms, but these were relatively discrete and concentrated on the main facade.

Prominence of the facades. The treatment of the facades reveals a clear hierarchy between the main facade, bleached, and the other facades, simply plastered or exposed stone walls. Similarly, the few decorative elements that can be found in the original finca are concentrated on the main facade.

The walls are wide, almost one meter, and consist of dry stone and mortar. Most walls are whitewashed in both homes and churches, although sometimes presented showing bare stone. The walls that enclose the building may have a form of steep walls (inclination and thicker at the bottom part) to strengthen the structure and the defensive function.

The windows are small and formerly had no glass, narrower on the outside than on the inside, thus emulating a fortress. Continuous attacks and plunders of vandals and pirates over centuries forced the homes to have this double function. Another purpose of the small windows was to protect the inside from the sun in summer, contributing to housing

The roofs are flat and originally made up of three layers: juniper wood, ash and marine plants and a layer of clay, which acted as insulation and impermeable. On rooftops different fruits of the field were sunned and serve to collect rainwater that is channeled through a cistern.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

The Ibizan finca is an consecution of adjoined and stacked cubic modules, shown as a construction of simple lines, flatness, enclosure, proportionality and human measures. Traditional Ibizan architecture finds its expression in the family house that is found in the rural environment of the island and, developing a specific typology, adapts both the terrain and the needs of its inhabitants.

The original distribution of these houses is a door that leads the main room (the porxo), public space of the house, the place of important meetings and transition between the outside and the private areas. The porxo is the acess to all the other rooms, generally the kitchen and two areas that originally served as both bedroom and storage. The kitchen, equal to or larger than the porxo, in ancient times also served to shield from the cold, around a bonfire on the floor, and as an occasional bedroom during winters. The front of the house was closed by a low wall, which inside multitude of herbs and a small orchard were kept protected from livestock. Separated from the main house were the pens that housed the animals. Surrounding to these were the fields, arranged in terraces of stone wall when they had to take advantage of the abundant slopes that the island has. Around some fincas there were also other architectural elements, such as a cart garage, oil mills, stables, lime kilns, the threshing floor or a coal deposit.

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Ibizan Finca Distribution / Closed courtyard

In the original interiors of the Ibizan finca, of which today only memories and some photographs remain, is the same strict functionality and austerity as marked by the outside of the building. Most of the rooms do not have a defined function, such as the large porxo or the kitchen, that have multiple uses. The scarce furniture and the absence of decorative elements in every room of the house expresses a singular simplicity, a purely utilitarian sense that makes the architectural elements acquire a greater role. The main source of incoming light is in the porxo, but it doesn’t usually have more openings than the entrance door and, because of the small windows, this main room shows the same kind of gloom as found in temples.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

Especially the interiors, but also most of the outside of the Ibizan finca show a clear relationship with the Arab houses in rural areas, unlike the houses of Mallorca and Menorca, which rather resemble Catalan or Castilian country houses. Homes in Tunisia and Algeria are very similar to the Ibizan finca, as both show the same economy of means, adaptation to the environment, horizontality and composition of modules. In fact, his construction method is also found from the Himalayas through Yemen and the Middle East, to the south of the Atlas, and fits into a long tradition dating back to the Neolithic era. Several studies suggest that it develops in Phoenicia and Babylon, and later extends to the southern coast of the Mediterranean basin.

Original finca ibicenca black white old architecture (3)

© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

Islands in the island.

Since ancient times, the people of Ibiza break with the two types of typical settlements of any other Mediterranean enclave: communities that prioritized defensive conditions by focusing on peninsulas or hills, and those that prevailed trade positioning its populations near the sea. Instead, cottages in Ibiza had a settlement scattered throughout the territory of the island and its distribution depended on the agricultural qualities (arable, fertile soil), being the distances between them irrelevant. This circumstances turned them into a kind of islands in the island.

The consequence of this unusual isolation was that these houses had to be self-sufficient from the outset and, at the same time, include elements that offered defense and shelter, such as thick walls or the praedial towers. Even the churches, which were conceived as fortresses and shelters inviting houses to group around it, failed to materialize real villages until recent times and this occured only partially, as evidenced by the dispersion of rural households that until nowadays are rarely grouped together.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

The dispersion of the habitat in Ibiza has been a constant since the Punic (Phoenician-Carthaginian) colonization. Throughout most of its history, the most profitable was to place the houses on the land they cultivated because arable soils were excessively separated. Even the Catalan conquest (1235) did not mean any change of habitat or cultivation method as they had for centuries with the Arab occupation.

Factors such as the isolation of the peasant houses, the low yields of their farms or the frequent pirate attacks led them not to rely on products and manufactured goods other than the basic, found nearby, pushing them to a near autarky situation. Therefore, homes and tools were made with the materials at hand, which explains the absence of building materials such as bricks or tiles. This dependency of the environment and the autarky of the peasant production unit are circumstances that explain the archaism of the Ibizan architecture.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

From these unfavorable circumstances and the farmers’ economic situation, close to subsistence for most of its history, adaptations took place in these constructions that surprise nowadays, considering it a model of sustainable and bioclimatic architecture. In this way, a climate of hot summers, little rain and wet winters and a mountainous landscape of scarce available land for cultivation, bring up the following adaptations to the buildings:

1. Environmental use and sustainability

Using the terrain rocks as natural foundation, the estate is built using materials found on the spot, without manufacturing processes rather than the mixture of mortar or lime kilns. In addition, the finca is ideally located on the slope of a hill, leaving behind the mountain, on a high surface with a slight inclination; which serves to prevent humidity and torrential rain, while being protected from the northern winds. The flat roofs are also used to collect rainwater that is channeled through a cistern for later consumption.

2. Bioclimatic

The thick walls and small windows insulate the outside temperature to keep the interior cool during the summer and warm in the winter, adapting the house to the climate of each cycle. The absence of glazing in the original fincas ensured the necessary ventilation for a perspiration of walls and roofs. The south-facing facades capture most of the sunlight in winter and more shade in the summer, while avoiding the winter winds from the north and allowing the entry of fresh winds in summer. Even the white of the walls had a role, by reflecting sunlight and prevent overheating of the building in summer.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

As could not be otherwise, the most interested in studying the Ibizan rural house were the avant-garde architects. In the 1930s it was a time of searching for new answers outside of classicism, towards new forms: rationalism, the Bauhaus and its heirs, Broner, Le Corbusier, the Group of Catalan Architects and Technicians for the Progress of Contemporary Architecture (GATCPAC), among others, found in Ibiza an architecture strongly shaped by climate, materials available and practically devoid of the influences of artistic or architectural styles from any given time, and the result of a direct contact between human being and the environment in which it developed its activity. In fact, the cubic simplicity of this ancient house was somehow a confirmation for those avant-gardist that the idea by them promoted was somehow on the right track, as it came countersigned by centuries of anonymous tradition developed on a small island, cradle of cultures.

The architects of the 30s described and embraced many elements of the traditional house, but did not have much interest in expanding their study into deeper topics like the historical origins of this architecture. A more extensive investigation would not appear until two or three decades later, and in particular two names are worth mentioning, that practically devoted their lives to studying this archaic architecture: the Canadian Rolph Blakstad, which is responsible for the first historical-typological study of the Ibizan houses, developing an important thesis about its origins, and later founded a new architectural style, modern but heavily influenced by the original finca; and the Belgian architect Philippe Rotthier, that apart from his extensive research on these buildings, carried out numerous rehabilitations of fincas and designed new buildings, rigorously faithful to the original old farms.

(CC) Ibiza_Balàfia 004, by Nicolas G. Mertens. Creative Commons License: CC BY-SA 4.0 (Changes made. Link to original)

Comparative studies such as Blakstads and Rotthiers, published in books and articles, saw the ancient Phoenicians territories and their areas of influence in the Middle East, Mesopotamia and Egypt, the cultures that imported the construction method to Ibiza, dating its origin in the Neolithic. They also considered the Ibizan finca as the most faithful legacy of the ancient Punic houses and palaces that exists in the present day.

Through a comparison of plans and drawings of these publications shows the surprising number of constructive coincidences between the ancient architectures of Phoenicia, Mesopotamia and Egypt and the simple rural house of Ibiza. This theory is the most convincing to the majority, but it also encounters detractors within the research community. In fact, this is a topic that deserves an article by itself.

© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

Today the new fincas are built using other materials and have considerable differences in form and composition with regard to the original fincas. To adapt them to modern requirements, the new built fincas are differentiated by an expansion of virtually all spaces and rooms, creating an increase of incoming light and higher ceilings, some rooms merge into others and there is usualy a higher frequency of decorative elements, such as sloping walls, pergolas or pavilions, among others. These are the most common additions arising from new trends and possibilities offered by technological advances; however, in its essence, these houses bear a strong resemblance to the old fincas, as the basic geometry of its forms, the predominant white or the thick walls. The fundamental similarities that the Ibizan finca shares with minimalism also explain the tendency to combine these two styles.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

The scarcity of forms and decorative elements shown by the ancient fincas is a phenomenon that was conditioned by the precariousness and the necessary practicality, revealing that these homes were not meant to be seen, but to be lived. Its interesting how it is precisely this aspect that makes this style so popular nowadays, but mainly by the visual property of the design and less for the practicality for which it was conceived, although in many cases it remains practical.

However, until very recently the Ibizan rural house seemed to be detached from the process of transformation of history and was considered an archetype of popular architecture. Possibly it constitutes the last example of an age-old wisdom and an archaic form of life. Traditional Ibizan constructions were built without plans or specialization, but integrated into the same peer culture, it preserves the memory, the technique and the identity of a community.









Rotthier, P. and Gobert, P. (2003). Treinta años en Ibiza, 1973-2003. [Sant Josep]: TEHP.

White, C. and Blakstad, S. (2012). Ibiza blakstad houses. Barcelona, Spain: Loft.

Ferrer Abarzuza, A. (1974). La casa campesina de Ibiza. Madrid: Narria. [consultado 10 de abril 2016] (2013). La casa ibicenca. Un ejemplo de arquitectura sostenible. [consultado 18 de abril 2016]

Mestre, B. y Torres, E. (1971). Guía de Arquitectura de Ibiza y Formentera, islas Pitiusas. Cuadernos de Arquitectura y Urbanismo. [consultado 20 de abril 2016]

González, M. (2015). El interior de la casa payesa. [online] [consultado 5 mayo 2016] (2009). Ibiza: edificios singulares. Institut Balear de Turisme. [consultado 5 mayo 2016]

Sharq, B. (2012). Las Casas Payesas, un camino a seguir. BK Rentacar. [consultado 10 de mayo 2016]

Kam, M. (2014). Edificación. Tipos de paredes y muros. [consultado 10 de mayo 2016]

Naya, C. (2016). Innistre. 1st ed. [ebook] Barcelona, pp.4-15. [consultado 12 mayo 2016]



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Title - Minimalist Architecture in Ibiza-2Minimalist Architecture in Ibiza. Roots & Trends

Minimalist Architecture in Ibiza. Roots & Trends

When we talk about of Spanish architecture, we often think of gilded stuccos, intricate arches, colorful tiles or open courtyards with ornamental balustrades. However, Ibiza is a world unto itself. The hallmark of the new Ibizan style is elegant, white and minimalist. And, as we will see next, these aspects aren’t only the product of a new trend, but rather for centuries formed part of Ibiza’s rural architecture.


During the 30s intellectuals from various fields visited Ibiza, getting some of them to spend long periods on the island. Among them were architects belonging to the GATEPAC group, like Josep Lluís Sert and German Rodriguez Arias, aswell as fellow German architect Erwin Broner. All of them were fascinated by traditional Ibizan architecture. Above all they found Ibiza’s traditional finca as an austere, practical and fully functional home, representing perfectly the basics of concept and identity of modern architecture. Although long before the minimalist discipline and the Bauhaus school, these architects were surprised at how the Ibizan finca mostly met the guidelines that marked this new trend. The ibizan rural house fascinated by its simplicity, the functionality of each element, its integration into the landscape, all built in a rational way that captivated these modern architects of the time.

[caption id="attachment_1236" align="alignleft" width="271"]Josep Lluís Sert (izq.) Josep Lluís Sert (left)[/caption]

As architect Josep Lluís Sert explains, according to a transcript of his speeches in the symposium held at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Ibiza in 1973, when it comes to Ibiza’s traditional rural architecture:

“This simple, white, rational architecture had a dimension and a human scale. The houses were obeying human needs and not responding to architectural orders of other times and cultures. We saw that this special and popular architecture had some constants. We could not tell what century this or that house was build, as this became irrelevant, because hardly anything changed in this type of architecture over the centuries. It was a perpetuation of forms endorsed by use. “

And it is especially in the perpetuation of forms endorsed by use and in the obedience to human needs, where we find the main link between the Ibizan rural architecture and architectural minimalism. Also, its possible to see that the traditional Ibizan finca meets most of the properties that define minimalist architecture:     

-Basic rectilinear geometry
Façade importance
Literal use of material
Austerity. Absence of ornaments
Structural and functional purism
Reduction and synthesis
-Economy of means

And, if the remaining three characteristics (Dematerialization, Order, Industrial production and standardization) are not being met or only partially, it is more due to technological advances and resources not available at that time, than due to a logical or natural development by this architectural discipline to comply with them.

The modern concept of the Ibizan fincas build by the architects of Blakstad Design Consultants, founded by Rolph Blakstad, could in fact represent what could be the natural evolution of the Ibizan rural architecture into a modern version of itself. To adapt to modern trends and requirements, these homes have been appropriated with minimalist elements to solve some of the major problems of the old fincas, but with a strong influence of traditional Ibizan finca design. The availability of modern materials, techniques and machinery allows, among others, to raise ceilings, structures that increase exterior light, roomy and diaphanous interior spaces and to expand sizes of rooms and entrances.

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© Kelosa | Ibiza Selected Properties

Modern villas in Ibiza usually have diaphanous floors and large windows, maximizing the views of the islands mediterranean landscapes. Among the Ibizan modern houses purely minimalist styles can be found, but also influences of other architectural disciplines such as Blakstad style or designs that combine both modern and traditional disciplines, with one or another more prominent.

A good example of a recent trend is the country estate Can Basso, as the result of a respectful renovation of an old finca over 300 years old. The architect did not remove any element of the original structure of the country house, but has changed some interiors, to be suited for latest trend designs in space and furniture, and added a few minimalist design elements like pool, windows, walls and garden. The result is an elegant combination of both disciplines, with a clear greater role of the original Ibizan finca style.

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Finca Can Basso -© Greg Jouslin/F. Dimmers

Another example is Can Durban, designed by Belgian architect Bruno Erpicum. Erpicum projects are known for a purist minimalism: large, white, bright villas and in search of infinite lines. In this case his work shows us a reinterpretation of the traditional house of Ibiza, with a strong role of minimalism. The result is, for example, frameless windows to benefit from wide views of the landscape, or prolonged and roomy interior spaces, providing what once was a traditional finca with a fundamentally minimalist architecture.

                           Pictures: Can Durban /© AABE – Atelier d’Architecture Bruno Erpicum & Partners

Minimalist architecture, at its core, reduces the structure to its basic elements, simplifying the design of spaces and providing serenity and tranquility, which are, in a sense synonymous with Ibizan style. The minimalist elements typically include pure materials from basic manufacturing, that harmonize effortlessly with natural light, form and space. With its roots in Japanese traditions and the Zen philosophy, minimalism is based on the transmission of calm through the essence, using the aesthetic principles of open spaces and the absence of unnecessary clutter that can be caused by architectural ornaments or decorative elements.

© AABE – Atelier d’Architecture Bruno Erpicum & Partners

At its best, the concept is realized when, on entering the house, from the first instant views are there from the living hall, across the pool deck and beyond to the landscape. In the same way, when we get the impression that the the room extends to the outdoor terrace, because architectural elements merge the two spaces, that is minimalism in its best form. One can say that minimalist architectural represents these sensations as an integral element and perfectly embodies the serene and relaxed feeling that Ibiza stands for.

We have seen that there is an undeniable connection between the two architectures. Therefore, it makes all the sense in the world here to invest in simple and austere standards, as it is found in the roots of Ibizan architecture.







Referencias/ Fuentes:

FERRER ABARZUZA, A. (1974). «La casa campesina de Ibiza». Madrid: Narria.

FERNÁNDEZ, R. (1998). «El laboratorio americano». Madrid: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva

CUERDA, Mª Concepción. La vivienda mínima en España: primer paso del debate sobre la vivienda social. Scripta Nova [en línea]. 1 de agosto de 2003, Vol. VII, núm. 146(023) [fecha de consulta: 30 de agosto 2015] 

SERT, Josep Lluís (1973) «intervenciones de Josep Lluis Sert en la charla coloquio celebrada en el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Ibiza». Disponible en: Grup d’Opinió d’Arquitectes.


It is possible that the pictures and the content reaches us through different channels and is sometimes difficult to know the author or the original source of the content. Whenever possible we added the author. If you are the author of any content (image, video, photography, text, etc.) and do not appear properly credited, please contact us and we will name you as an author. If you show up in a picture and think it impugns the honor or privacy of someone we can tell us and it will be withdrawn.

Kelosa Blog editors are not responsible for the opinions or comments made by others, these being the sole responsibility of their authors. Although your comment immediately appears in Kelosa Blog we reserve the right to delete (in case of using swear words, insults or disrespect of any kind) and editing (to make it more readable) or undermines the integrity of the site.