'In Marbella we need to catalogue our heritage before doing the Urban Plan'

Moreno talks about the rich heritage of Marbella and what can be done in order to protect and preserve its historical remains


It is now 25 years since Francisco Javier Moreno brought together a group of people who were concerned that the local heritage was being neglected and founded the Cilniana association. He was its first president and a quarter of a century later he is still studying, defending and providing information about Marbella's wealth of history, which for many goes completely unnoticed. At the moment the town's new Urban Plan (PGOU) is in the process of being drawn up and he sees this as a golden opportunity for Marbella to protect its heritage.

What are the main examples of the heritage of Marbella?

Our heritage is dispersed all over the municipality. That from the Roman era is very important, with the villa at Río Verde, the paleochristian basilica and the Roman baths. Then we have the castle in the Old Town centre, which is from the caliphal period and is still very well preserved, and our other major heritage, which sadly has been abandoned, is the industrial one, especially mining. There are some good remains left from that era, but unfortunately nothing has ever been done to revitalise and preserve them. Most are in private hands and have been completely neglected. While other places are clearly committed to their industrial heritage, like the Río Tinto basin, for example, Marbella has turned its back on it and has yet to do anything about it.

What opportunities for improvement does the new PGOU bring?

We have the precedent of the last Urban Plan, which established three types of protection: integral, exterior and the surrounding area, depending on the way each site is classified for protection. That would be an important starting point, but I would go further and say we need to create a catalogue, drawn up by a multidisciplinary team and with scientific criteria for contemporary architecture, archaeological sites and monuments, as well as historical spaces. That type of heritage catalogue would need to be drawn up before the PGOU is finished, and then incorporated into the document.

And where are we with this protection at the moment?

They had made good progress in the most recent plan, which created protection not only for archaeological sites but also contemporary architecture. However, when that plan was annulled they all ended up unprotected. A huge heritage, with no protection whatsoever. Everything concerning the archaeological sites needs to be reviewed because a lot of things are new, there are a lot of different classifications now. Not everything can be protected in the same way.

Why include contemporary architecture?

In the 1960s in Marbella there was possibly the best architecture in Spain, it was vacational architecture, the work of the best Spanish and international architects of the time. Marbella was a place for creativity and free expression, freed from the corsets that had previously restricted architects and they created fantastic buildings which have been neglected or destroyed, often through ignorance. That's why we need a specific catalogue of contemporary architecture.

I'm sure we must pass emblematic buildings every day without noticing them.

There are so many! For example, the Guadalmina urbanisation was largely built by architect Luis Gutiérrez Soto, and is a top quality example. His famous Aldeas de las Águilas are often referred to in architectural manuals. And the houses built by Robert Byron Keeller Mosher, too. They are in urbanisations and go completely unnoticed. Only an expert eye can spot them. We also had very good examples by Casto Fernández Shaw, one of the top architects of the 20th century, and they have all disappeared now. There is a huge list. There are some very good works by Fernando Higuera, who was an exceptional architect with works such as the Jardines del Mar, in front of the Don Pepe hotel, and Terrazas de las Lomas del Marbella Club, which is a fabulous complex. There's La Virginia urbanisation, which is beautiful, and the Residencia de Tiempo Libre which is the only example of 1960s architecture which is protected because it is a Site of Cultural Interest.

Could they have learned from the Old Town and all the problems there have been there?

The degradation of the Old Town mainly started in the time of GIL, when they started to indiscriminately demolish buildings and modernise them without any criteria and we lost so many of the historical buildings. When the town hall set up its management committee, which I served on for 13 months, we approved a transitory regulation to protect the Old Town, to save what was left of it. Since then it has protected the area, but when the new plan comes into force that will be annulled. We hope that, at least, the regulation will be incorporated into the new plan with the same parameters as it has at present.

What could be done to improve the situation of the Old Town?

For many years we have been talking about special protection. It needs to be cared for down to the last millimetre, looked after in a different way to the rest of the town, because it is very fragile. It is a permeable historical complex that is very open to all kinds of aggressions. It can't just be considered as separate buildings, it needs an overall protection plan.