'For our generation, being nomadic is everything' says architect Mariana de Delás

Es Llombards, Majorca, Spain – Mariana de Delás epitomizes a generation content with being on the move, comfortably switching from one environment to the next. The young architect divides her time between Barcelona, Madrid, and a remote agricultural estate in southern Majorca, owned by her family. Not quite ready to completely cut her ties with urban centres, Mariana is slowly realising a plan with her brother to renew the decaying stone houses and stable structures of the old family farm. Music festivals, architectural workshops and luxury off-grid accommodation all feature in this ancient agricultural land’s future, as well as a distant hope to establish a more permanent base for her work.

When did you set up your architec­ture practice?

MARIANA DE DELÁS: I started to work independently after being offered to design a hotel in Madrid. At that time a good friend of mine had just come back from New York, so we decided to join forces. Our clients are based in Barcelona, Madrid and Majorca. We don’t have as many clients as I would like in Majorca yet, but enough to start working in this triangle. The long-term plan is to set up my architecture base here.

What made you want to come back here?

I want to revitalise the family farm. We have this family treasure and there is no ambi­tion for change, everybody just keeps it as it is. There are a lot of cousins and uncles involved, but we have the opportunity to transform and renew it.

What is your ambition for this place?

The overall goal is to keep the estate in the fam­ily. I want to make the farm as splendorous as it deserves to be by exploring different ways to sustain it. There are not many places like this that have not been corrupted by money. But in order to make it economically sustainable the farm has to generate more income.

We want to fix old structures while cre­ating interesting side projects. We have hosted two international architecture workshops where we created experimental structures using tradi­tional building techniques. In October we are going to host the first edition of a new music festival featuring exper­imental bands from Majorca. We restored the roof of one of the old buildings, which became the first wooden roof in the area. By fixing these buildings we also hope to create places for music residencies. It’s so calm here, I think it would work really well for musicians.

We are also in investment talks to refur­bish one of the main houses in order to rent it out. It will be an off-grid house, a very unique space that will self-produce all the energy it needs. It’s a contemporary idea of luxury, offer­ing privacy and connection to nature.

In my field we are obsessed with research and planning, but sometimes things that are done spontaneously end up being much more interesting

Do you think being here influences your creativity in a different way?

Everything is done without planning here. People on the farm are very practical and I find that very inspiring. In my field we are obsessed with research and planning, but sometimes things that are done spontaneously end up being much more interesting.

 

Why do you think the countryside is becoming more appealing for young people?

I think it’s a combination of things. For our gen­eration, being nomadic is everything. My mom always laughs about us getting all these air­planes, always being on the move. But it makes it a lot easier to live in the countryside. It feels like you’re just moving through without having to fully commit to it. You have a bag here, you have a bag there, and you keep on moving. You don’t have the feeling that you’re saying good­bye to the city.

When my group of friends finished university in 2011, Spain was hit by the big recession. Everybody had to move, there was no other option. People moved to India, Japan, South America and so on. We got used to the idea of moving for work. When we started our own offices we didn't wait for people to hire us. We keep on following the projects we are working on, and the projects we want to work on. I want to have projects here, so I come here to find clients.

Do you think having lived and worked in major cities means you can bring something new to the countryside?

I think everything we bring here is new. For exam­ple the combination of disciplines, like art and architecture. Or the idea of aesthetics and repairing things in a nice way. People here tend to fix things with whatever they have to hand. They are purely focused on practicality.

It’s funny because people visit the coun­tryside with this romantic notion about it, but for people who live here there is nothing exotic about it. It’s all very practical. Everything you do that has no immediate or obvious use – some­thing that is just beautiful or has a more ephem­eral use – those things are really mind-blow­ing for the locals. Now they appreciate it, but in the beginning nobody understood what we were doing. I really enjoy challenging those perceptions.

marianadelas.com

This is an edited version of our interview with Mariana de Delás, featured in full in City Quitters. The book, which offers a global perspective on post-urban creative life through 22 interviews across 12 countries, is available for purchase here.

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