Restoration of ancient Spanish castle debated amid criticism

AP News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2016 12:18 PM
Restoration of ancient Spanish castle debated amid criticism

MADRID (AP) — An architect who oversaw the restoration of a decaying ninth-century castle in southern Spain defended his work Friday after critics slammed the result as resembling a box-shaped parking garage.

Carlos Quevedo Rojas told The Associated Press that Matrera Castle in Villamartin was in danger of collapsing completely and that the restoration job was approved by regional cultural authorities.

The story of the castle went viral after Spain's La Sexta television this week interviewed residents who attacked the result as a botched effort.

The Spanish historical conservation association Hispania Nostra joined in by labeling the restoration "a disaster" and said it received messages of condemnation from outside the country.

The completed job was "truly lamentable, surprising both locals and foreigners and not in a nice way," Hispania Nostra said.

The castle had been crumbling and in ruins for decades but what was left of its interior collapsed in 2013, leaving just two outside walls. To shore these up, a new, blank gray interior wall was constructed but contrasts sharply — and for some, not agreeably — with the original.

Quevedo Rojas, a Villamartin native, said such restoration projects are always the subject of debate but noted that a complete reconstruction of the castle was not possible because doing so is prohibited by law.

"I understand there's a diversity of opinion and the majority of local people were surprised," he said. "It's normal with cultural sites like this that a change in appearance draws criticism."

Jose Maria Gutierrez Lopez, the director of Villamartin's History Museum, said town officials were happy with the result and attributed the criticism to public misunderstanding of Spanish cultural site restoration norms.

In 2013, officials had difficulty getting 200 signatures to lobby for the restoration, he said.

"And now that it's restored, people are complaining," he said. "It saddens me."

The restoration has been compared to a botched attempt in 2012 by an elderly amateur painter to restore a fresco of Jesus in the northeastern town of Borja. That roundly criticized repainted fresco ended up becoming a major tourist draw.

Matrera Castle is privately owned and can be seen from neighboring towns but is not open to the public.