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The Eternal Return of the Same. Tourism in Spain, 1966/2020

Sila Karatas Basoglu (Doctoral Assistant, Construction and Conservation Laboratory, Institute of Architecture and the City, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, Switzerland)

José Vela Castillo (Associate Professor of Architecture, IE School of Architecture and Design, IE University, Madrid and Segovia, Spain)

On the 25th of June, 2020, the Parador Nacional de Aiguablava reopened its doors. It is a 4-star hotel owned by the state-run hotel chain timely associated with the Spanish touristic miracle of the 1960s. After a three-year-long full renovation to update its operativity, it was scheduled to reopen in May 2020, but as COVID-19 lockdown measures have been still in force in Spain, it was postponed till the end of June, anti-COVID-19 updating props included.

FIG 1. Manuel Fraga Iribarne, the Spanish Minister of Information and Tourism, inaugurating the Parador Nacional de Aiguablava in Begur (Gerona, Costa Brava) on 24 January 1966.

Built in 1966 as part of a programmed expansion of the hotel chain Paradores Nacionales as part of the First Development Plan (1964-67) of the Francoist Spain, and following the

International Style-designs of Duran Reynals and Manuel Sáinz de Vicuña (a previous design by Duran Reynals from 1946 in a ‘vernacular style’ was not built) it was first expanded in 1973, and underwent different partial updating, the last in 2000 by the team of architects Marcos Parga and Idoia Otegui. In 2018, a new contract was granted to the team Denys & von Arend for integral renovation with a cost that exceeds 17 million euros.

FIG 2. Parador de Aiguablava in Gerona. Preliminary designs by Duran Reynals, 1946.

Placed in a paradise-site in Begur, in the Catalan Costa Brava province of Girona (formerly Gerona), perched on the cliff of Punta d’es Muts overlooking the Aiguablava cove, the blue-turquoise waters of the Mediterranean christened it with its name.

FIG 3 (left). Parador Nacional de Aiguablava, Gerona, 1966.

FIG 4 (right). Parador Nacional de Aiguablava, Gerona, 2020.

The inauguration was realized with all the necessary pomp and circumstance in 1966 by the no less than the Spanish Minister of Information and Tourism, Manuel Fraga Iribarne himself, to whom the dictum ‘Spain is different’ for advertising Spanish tourism is (historically but imprecisely) attributed.

FIG 5 (left). The Minister of Information Manuel Fraga Iribarne inaugurating at the entrance of the Parador Nacional de Aiguablava the day of the oficial opening, 24 January 1966.

FIG 6 (right). Entrace to the Parador Nacional de Aiguablava as renovated in 2020.

This Parador today is advertised as a modern installation that boasts, apart from the original breathtaking views from the rooms and other dependencies next to some of its original most iconic features as the chimney and glass-pierced mural in the main lobby, with the new gymnasium, spa and almost-infinite pool as inevitable features of today’s leisure.

54 years after its opening as a shining symbol of the Spanish state-sponsored boom in planned tourism, nothing seems to have changed in the years since its inauguration. If in the 1960s tourism was promoted as one, if not the first, of the economic engines for the development of the country, the present-day crisis of tourism, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated that the dependence of Spain on tourism is as heavy as it was in Franco times. The decrease in total visitors around more than 40 million (up to 58 million tourists visited the country in 2019) and the loses estimated as 92,500-million-euro clearly show the Spanish dependence on a sector that produces up to 12,5 of the gross net income.

What was intended as a tool to equilibrate the payment balance of the country and to increase the reserves of foreign currency in the 1960s, following the programmed development of tourism in the western economies introduced after the Marshall Plan and the transnational expertise on scientific tourism, remains in 2020, the key sector of the country.

FIG 7 (left) and 8 (right). Parador Nacional de Aiguablava, main lobby as in 1966 and in 2020.

The famous sentence by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa as appears in his 1958 novel Il Gattopardo ‘Everything must change for everything to remain the same’ is as true as ever. Or, as Nietzsche could have said, Spain is confronted no less than with ‘the eternal return of the same.’ And its taste is as bitter as ever.

FIG 9 (left) and 10 (right). Parador Nacional de Aiguablava, the views of the Mediterranean 'blue water' (Aiguablava means this in Catalan) as in 1966 and in 2020.



FIG 2. Revista Nacional de Arquitectura, nº 84, year VIII (December 1948), p. 529.

FIG 4, 6, 8, and 10: Paradores de Turismo

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