RMS 2011-School of Architecture - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RMS 2011

Rethinking Mallorca's Seafront

Deadline:  04 November

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Tourism is without a doubt one of the largest economical activities in the world. According to the “International Tourism Overview” published by the “United Nations World Tourism Organization” (UNWTO), tourism contributes anywhere from 2% to 10% to a country’s economy. In 2008 the benefits generated by the global tourism industry, including passenger transportation, was close to 3 billion dollars, and its contribution to employment is estimated at 7% of the world active population. The growth in the sector has not stopped even during the global crisis that started on the second half of 2008. The UNWTO estimates that in 2010 tourism actually increased by 4%.

One of the most desired tourist destinations has always been the seafront. Any combination of ‘Sun and Beach’ is guaranteed to attract tourists. As with any seafront, the transition between earth and water, the view to the infinite, that feeling of peace on the calm days and fury on the stormy ones awakens human feelings and desires like no other environment.

Seafronts have always been the most desired and sought after real estate in the world. For many years, real estate developers saw great business opportunities in this sector and started developing seafronts to make bigger profits, sometimes forgetting, or even ignoring, the consequences that their action might have on the environment, society, the landscape, and history…

This development has in many ways damaged seafronts to an almost irreparable point. There are many cities that can serve as an example for this; such as Benidorm in the coast of Spain, Playa del Carmen in Mexico or Cartagena in Colombia. Ironically many of these destinations lose their charm when they become too crowded even for the same tourists who flock to them.

This is one of the reasons why the real state companies keep conquering new unexplored sites to attract the masses to these new paradises, converting the coasts little by little into an opportunist real estate landfill that’s going to be very difficult to recycle.

Architecture is definitely one of the main responsible for all this process, but at the same time has the opportunity to remake and correct its errors. It is a responsibility for architecture to turn this economic activity into a sustainable environment that allows conciliating the interests of all; the economic interest of real state, the desire of people to spend their vacations near the sea, the evolving and progression of the seaside cities, and the conservation of the landscape as a human heritage.


ArchMedium believes that all these concepts can be compatible within a single plan. Architecture can be the base point for developing and improving these sustainable environments. These improved sustainable environments can create harmony between the tourists who want to visit them and the conservation and identity of the landscape.

We propose a redesign of the seafront of Cala Millor while taking advantage of the fact that the city council has decided to push back the automobile accessible area away from the seafront, making more space for pedestrian walkways and public spaces.

This competition is takes as its basis the Phd investigation work done by the architect Biel Horrach Estarellas. His investigation and thesis proposes a key strategy for the development of this site in particular that is also meant to serve as a model for other areas with similar characteristics.

This investigation is at the same time based on the pilot plan for the zone that is being promoted by the “Consell Insular de Mallorca” to accomplish the “European treaty for landscape preservation”.

The site

Cala Millor is located on the east cost of the Mallorca Island in Spain. It is the third most visited destination on the island, having 10,000 permanent residents and over 35,000 hotel rooms.

Since the 60’s Cala Millor has become one of the most visited place by tourists. Construction rapidly grew at the seafront followed by other expansions towards the interior once the seafront was overbuilt. These growing patterns have generated different kind of urban structures in a very small area. The fact that Cala Millor is located in what was once considered no man’s land for many years, between two different municipalities but without belonging to any of them has contributed to this indiscriminate and uncontrolled growth that never contemplated the landscape as a part of the equation.

This limit situation is not only alarming for the architecture community, but also for the hotels associations of the Balear Islands, who see the future success and continuity of their activity closely related to the need of a urban and legal rearrangement of the whole place that will help them find a balance between their economic interests and the preservation of the site.