Costa's Brutalist icons turn fifty

The Los Manantiales towers on the skyline today.
The Los Manantiales towers on the skyline today. / SUR
  • The triple Los Manantiales blocks of apartments in Torremolinos won acclaim for innovative details

  • The complex, designed by Luis Alfonso Pagán López in the pioneer days of mass tourism, was for years the tallest in Andalucía

One of the most eye-catching buildings on the Torremolinos skyline is celebrating fifty years. The three circular towers of the Los Manatiales complex were designed by Madrid-born architect, Luis Alfonso Pagán. They rise 18 storeys each and were built in the so-called Brutalist style of architecture that was popular at the time.

A businessman linked to the world of cinema was behind the project, which had 240 apartments, a 45-bedroom hotel, shopping area, green space and a swimming pool and sun terrace on the top. The architect, who was then 28 and is now 81, went on to have an illustrious career and this work in Torremolinos is now protected in the PGOU master town plan.

Back in the 1960s, Torremolinos was still controlled by Malaga town hall and the original planning designation for the plot was only six storeys. However, in 1967 Malaga council voted to change the rules "because of the quality of the project's architecture".

Work started in April 1968 and the third tower was topped off in 1969, exactly 50 years ago. At 63 metres high, they were the tallest residential blocks in Andalucía for years.

Like a sunflower

The shape of the façades; the curves of the staircases and terraces; the original radial layout of each flat like a sunflower; and the use of raw, reinforced concrete made Los Mantaniales a pioneer development.

For the project design, which won a Silver Hexagon at the Habitation Space International Awards in 1979, the architect was inspired by the then new idea of vertical gardens. Each floor was divided into six segments, like slices of cheese; five for apartments and one for the round lifts and exterior staircases which are one of the most striking features of the three towers and look a bit like a sculpture reaching up to the sky. Experts said the project aimed to marry the need for a high rise property with the aspiration for a family home surrounded by greenery.

Back in 1969 the apartments went for 360,000 pesetas (2,194 euros) and these days go for as much as 265,000 euros. Concrete tubes play a big part in the design to maximise the flow of sea breezes. The buildings had original and carefully thought-out features, such as the yellowish-red window frames made of Douglas fir.

Hotel is closed

Today the towers, that even had a visit from Prince Juan Carlos, before becoming king, with his wife, suffer from modifications that have disturbed the harmony of the original design. The Hotel Tres Torres, occupying part of the building, is also in a sorry state after closing a few years ago.

According to Juan Gavilanes of the University of Malaga, "The current state is more like the façade is trying to make the best it can between the tubes of concrete, rather than the utopian garden-in-the-sky overlooking the sea, as planned."

It is now down to the owners of the flats and Torremolinos council to try to keep the dream alive. The PGOU master town plan gives the three towers protected status as a "singular group of buildings", along with several other sites with modern architecture in the resort dating back to the heyday of its growth and prestige, including La Nogalera and the Palacio de Congresos.