Benidorm, a question of belonging

Benidorm, a question of belonging

This year Unit 8 will explore the inherent relationship in between housing crisis and mass tourism on the Spanish Mediterranean “Costa Blanca“ coastline. By looking into the specific case of Benidorm, the unit will seek for a new housing typology and its adjacent public realm that challanges the social and architectural typology of the “all-inclusive“.

Whether viewed in terms of employment, cultural activity or environmental impact, tourism today is one of the world’s largest and most important industries. However, while supplying services to holidaymakers, practice of tourism inevitably leaves trace to the social, political and environmental footprint of the locale. Benidorm, a city that was only a hundred years ago a fisherman’s village of 3000 people, is today better known as the Mediterranean New York with more skyscrapers per squared meters than any other city in Europe. Its urban fabric was newly developed during the 70s and 80s, making the city Spain’s biggest coastal resort that is able to take over 12 million tourists every year, the same amount of tourist as Croatia or Morocco in total. Today, a great range of people dwells in Benidorm, from locals and Spanish senior travel groups to foreign holidaymakers and permanent foreign residents. Yet, the city sees little interaction between social groups, with the architectural typology of all-inclusive gated hotels and apartments foregrounding this social, spatial and economical division. At the same time, while the initial urban layout performs successfully in high peak tourist season, a high percentage of Benidorm’s built environment turns out to be empty of fully closed the rest of the year.

In this specific context, we believe that architecture, with the ability to directly impact the way we consume our cities, has the potential to rearticulate the urban framework of mass tourism as one that creates urban and social qualities. Challenging the currently established Benidorm all-inclusive gated hotel typology, where segregated swimming pools have become the centre of “public“ live replacing the traditional city squares, the unit will look into housing schemes that aim to bring permeability into the existing gated blocks through interventions that occupied interstitial and vacant spaces in the threshold between developments. These urban injections will target to bridge the gap between the different social groups that consume Benidorm.

While building on Ricardo Bofill’s “The City in the Space“ utopian studies for an adaptable, multifunctional and flexible community that materialised in a number of housing schemes built during the 70s along Costa Blanca, including La Muralla Roja, Castillo Kafka and Walden 7, unit 8 will critically investigate and propose a series of alternative housing schemes that play a leading role as facilitator of this interaction. By referencing utopian communities dreamt -and built- by Bofill, students in unit 8 will be encouraged to challenge hotels as an obsolete architectural typology of mass tourism in Benidorm while designing flexible housing schemes that allow owners to adapt their houses to seasonal tourism as a shared platform facilitating a greater cross-cultural interaction.