30 de julio de 2012

Alcalá had aerodrome

May, at first glance, the following lines have little relation with heritage and cultural identity, but soon you will see that I am not far wrong.

On this occasion I wish to speak of a construction that makes me fascinated while uncertainty every time I pass by it or I am going to visit it. This is a huge skeleton of reinforced concrete that was once thought of as hangar and now totally abandoned and dilapidated. In its state and its possible recovery I want to focus, due to it is a clear and undoubted remains of our local history.
The hangar of which I speak is at the University Campus of Science; within the grounds of the University of Alcalá de Henares (Madrid) located northeast area of the city.

Before making a brief history I would note that we cannot really talk about a construction because the project that Esteban Terradas made in the 40´s to implement this new hangar to the General Air Academy in Alcalá de Henares just ran the structure, what can be observed and what is imminent, and it was abandoned long before the end of the work.

Everyone, speaking or remembering aerodromes that there are or there were in the area, they always mention the Barajas Airport and Air Base of Torrejón de Ardoz (both in Madrid), but what few people know is that there were once other two more, both in Alcalá.

In 1913 a temporary aeronautical facility was opened in this town known as Angel Field (named after a chapel dedicated to the Holy Guardian Angel, who it was in the same area). This airfield served as a pilot school for the various Spanish military forces. At that time there was no concept that we have today of "track" of an aerodrome, therefore, to get off the planes were oriented in the direction where the wind was more favorable.
These plants were growing and most powerful aircraft were already harboring and a greater number of military soldiers, and soon these facilities became too small to harbor both members of the Navy and the Air Force, until finally it was abandoned in 1934.

The new airport, to accommodate this large existing military movement, was built on the outskirts of the city and it was called by the name of "Barberán and Collar" in honor of two Spanish pilots disappeared mysteriously in Mexico at that time.

During the Republic, this new airfield was a participant during the War from 1936 to 1939, in the missions of aerospace defense of Madrid. With the coming to power of the General Francisco Franco took the step of creating the Air Force as a third force Spanish Armada.

The Spanish Air Force needed a new training center for pilots (known by the Spanish acronym AGA (acronym from General Air Academy) and at first considered building that AGA in Alcalá de Henares, in this airport, for which new buildings and a huge reinforced concrete hangar were built, but finally was located in San Javier (Murcia).

"Barberán and Collar" was closed to air traffic in 1965, but until 1969 it had a garrison of the Air Force, which was used for storage and other auxiliary facilities.

Finally the grounds of the airfield were reused to make way for external campus of the University of Alcalá de Henares, which were reused and extended some existing buildings to provide shelter and services to different schools of the university.

Viewing the historical past that has this hangar, it would not be strange to think of an immediate recovery of this element, in the consolidation of the existing structure and severely damaged and try to establish some kind of program to use and enjoy it today and tomorrow ... but nothing is further from the truth. After more than 70 years standing still there is nothing planned for it. The aim was installed under this structure a large greenhouse that was part of the Botanical Garden “Juan Carlos I”, located in the vicinity, but has forgotten the project, along with many others.
Furthermore, it appears that in the case of military architecture or related military issues not pay much attention to time and try to safeguard its use and give it back, surprising, since this element does not remember events rough or harmful memories.

Another important point and key to its recovery is currently uncatalogued and it has no known type of protection, being part of the Red List of the Complutense Heritage.

As you approach to the place where it is still standing may be seen traces that have been causing continuous due to the time and neglect it has suffered, not those observed at first glance, such as humidity, vegetation on all items, graffiti’s, trash and dirt... but in areas where concrete is cracking due to oxidation of the internal armature and show a marked and severe structural weakness.

Currently the use given to this facility is to store mulch and pruning, and college parties are held occasionally, patterns days, "paelladas" and "botellones"...

Therefore I find it strange that in the time it takes the university in the area has not done anything to put this hangar at its facilities because, as shown in the photographs of the site, following a structural reinforcement and correct adaptation would be fully capable of hosting any use, educational or not, that it would bestow. In addition, we are talking about a building consisting of three longitudinal aisles with huge dimensions (over 150 meters long, more than 30 meters wide and almost 15 meters high in the central zone).

At the time of award possible uses that can be established here I have found different solutions and the most varied, prove me curiously the fact that no one wish to its transformation into a museum of aviation or the use to which it was intended in the 40's, as advocated by some elders.
A large majority of students opt for its transformation into a central library supply all surrounding colleges (science, biology, nursing ...). And most would choose another was put up to house the events that held in different schools now, patterns days, "paelladas" ... in a safe manner.

The first option does not see it feasible for two reasons: one, by the fact that every school has a greater or lesser extent a library, and two, because in the center of Alcalá de Henares it is doing a work of remodeling and expansion of the “Chancellor” and “Infantry” area, and in the future it will house a large library of several plants.

The second option is more feasible that I see, the transformation of the hangar in a large reception center student, partly because of the large influx of students who are in the area, not just local or national, even international, thanks to exchange programs like Erasmus, grants for languages... that they offered. A meeting point where they could gather and share experiences, socialize, and celebrate events, concerts...

Whether use or otherwise, any of the exposed or one that could adapt, it is important that we should worry about the elements that are part of our history, whether buildings, elements... all are always linked to stages of human beings and of life.

And, as it once told me: "... if it has a certain use, it is protected ... if it does not have a certain use, it is abandoned ..." ... so much reason... 

If you desire to read this article in Spanish or seeing the photographs, please visit:

14 de julio de 2012


No one can question the figure of the “hórreo” as a structuring element of the rural landscape of the northern peninsular area. But ... What is a “hórreo”?

A “hórreo” (called “cabazo” in Galician, “horru” in Asturian and “horriu” in Cantabrian) is an isolated building, made ​​of wood or stone, which functions as a warehouse or barn, which is raised off the ground by pillars (called pegollus) also of wood or stone to prevent access of rodents. Usually it has ventilation holes in the walls and it is commonly used for storage of farm implements and agricultural products, as “fabas”, corn...

The “hórreo” is linked to the land, to their exploitation... to the subsistence economy. Due to bad weather and humidity of the northern peninsular area and pests it was vital to safeguard the obtained harvest, hence the build such a wood warehouse.

It is unclear the origin of this construction, but some people argue that it dates back to the time of the Roman Empire (calling them horreum) and other people that claim going back much earlier, in Neolithic times, but the idea that it takes more strength is that they are pre-Roman, although it cannot be justified due to the absence of archaeological remains.

In Spain, “hórreos” are located mainly in the northeast peninsular area (Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria), but there are similar buildings in the Pyrenees area and in the northern Portugal area (calling them espigueiros). In Europe there are similar constructions too, as in Switzerland (calling them mazot), in France (calling them chalot), in Sweden (calling them härbre)...

There are two types of “hórreos” according to their morphology: the Galician type (with a square floor) and the Asturian, Cantabrian... type (with a rectangular floor). The Cantabrian “hórreos” are different from Asturian and Galician “hórreos” because the Cantabrian´s roof is gabled, unlike the Asturian´s and Galician´s that is hipped. Within the Asturian “hórreos” there are several types depending on the roofing material (slate, tile curve, straw ...), the material of the “pegollus” ... In the eastern area the roofing material is generally curved tile, while in the west often be slabs of slate.

On the Internet we can find many websites with the parts that make up the “hórreo” thoroughly explained, pictures of construction details...

Basically a “hórreo” consists of “pilpayu” (where lies the pillar) “pegollu” (pillar or support), “muela” (prevents the rise of rodents), “tacu” (support the “trabe”), “trabe” (floor joists), “colondres” (walls“ of the hórreo”), “liños” (beams that hold the roof), “viga del quesu” (beams that form the roof) and “subidoria” (stairs to the “hórreo”).

There are many more elements that they have not been appointed here and that also make up the “hórreo”, as a “viga carcelera”, “tenovia”, “almanca”, “camaranchón”...

According to Law 16/1985, of 25 June, of Spanish Historical Heritage, Goods of Cultural Interest are all “hórreos” and “cabazos” of Asturias and Galicia over 100 years old. In the case of “hórreos”, they are protected throughout the Principality and they cannot be exported from Asturias, in addition to being regulated and prohibited all movements within the territory of Asturias. Also, being members of the Asturian ethnographic heritage, they have a specific regime of protection established in the Law of the Principality of Asturias 1/2001, of 6 March, of Cultural Heritage.

This should be "a priori" a reason for their conservation, but of the approximately 11000 “hórreos” that currently exist in Asturias, disappears one per day, that is to say, they would disappear in 30 years if no precautionary measures are taken to preserve them.

This neglect can be caused by the binding of several factors, including the depopulation of rural areas together with the few aids by the Administration. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism grants up to 12000 euros for homeowners who meet certain conditions, among which are: uniqueness and historical value, opening for visits, care during the last seven years ... The cost of maintenance or the “hórreo” recovery overcome in most cases the wage that the owner obtains. This, together with the few aids granted, makes gradually abandon its maintenance.

Seeing this is understandable that few of them receive such grants if most of them are abandoned and dilapidated. Then? Management should be responsible for preserving the “hórreos” in the worst state before its disappearance.

Many people advocating about a move of the most damaged “hórreos”, but ... Where? To a museum? A “hórreo” is not just a single building; it is form part of an environment, so it is unthinkable to separate it from there. Others advocate a change of use of “hórreos”; adapt it to modern times, but ... How? Transforming into apartments? It would not be feasible given the few living conditions they have, since the use for which it is intended for storage, so you adapt a home in these areas would be a much more expensive than the aid offered by the Administration, excluding aspects such as waste disposal, water resistance, soundproofing...

Whereupon the few “hórreos” those are still standing and have not suffered from neglect, they changed its use, but they have become the roof of the open garages, drying or storage rooms.

One could adopt a sustainable solution by adapting the cover for rainwater harvesting, drying indoor use or resume use traditional pantry, using an organic farm land without pesticides or toxins, organic food that little by little is being marketed and consumed. Thus, in addition, be resumed once existing neighborhood relations together with an exchange of agricultural products between the members of that community.

From here I propose a solution by creating an objective census, an inventory of existing “hórreos” that we can still recover, but not only limited to its location but also an exhaustive study of it, besides the use of old wood used aforetime (oak, chestnut...) for the restoration of the oldest “hórreos” (including reuse of granaries and timber or destroyed in an unrecoverable state) and that the use of other woods could harm them.

All this along with an outreach program, through eco-museums (museums merged with the environment), ethnological routes, guided tours... showing the “hórreo” as it is, that is to say, a specific construction of Asturias and it is a identifying symbol of the area, therefore, defend the identity of that construction.

“Hórreos” are not just a tourist attraction, they are a proof of a way of life, understand the reason for its construction is to understand the origin of this element and, therefore, find the reasons for their conservation.

If you desire to read this article in Spanish or seeing the photographs, please visit:

2 de julio de 2012


Estimad@s amig@s, debido a entregas y exámenes finales el blog ha estado bastante parado.
En breve publicaré un nuevo artículo y, además, podréis disfrutar de todas las entradas que he realizado hasta ahora pero en inglés.

Gracias por vuestra comprensión. Un fuerte abrazo !!!