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The architectural heritage of Marbella

Think of Marbella and you picture the sweep of a palm-fringed sandy coastline bordered by a verdant, subtropical coastal plain where luxurious villas and apartment complexes follow the meandering contours of beautiful golf courses. It’s a world of greens and blues, where majestic mountain ranges form an interior backdrop that creates the Costa del Sol’s benevolent microclimate.

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The scene conjures up images of luxurious resorts, trendy beach clubs, palm-lined avenues and super yachts glistening in the marina of Puerto Banús. But there is another side to Marbella that is sometimes overlooked – namely the fact that it is also highly interesting from an architectural point of view. Naturally this includes the Moorish, Renaissance, Baroque and also traditional Andalusian styles of its historic Old Town quarter, as well as the rustic architecture of the surrounding villages and country properties, but above all Marbella is a fantastic example of the evolution of a former fishing village into a glamorous resort and now a cosmopolitan town.

Architectural beauty and variety

Of interest is the stylistic evolution of residential complexes, which in themselves reflect the development of this region since its ‘discovery’ as a seaside destination in the 1950s. They include early examples of the Mediterranean seaside villa, some of the finest of which are to be found in areas such as Nagüeles, its incorporation of international Modernist influences as seen in preserved villas on the upper Golden Mile, and ultimately the creation of urbanisations such as La Virginia and La Heredia, which form an idealised re-interpretation of the traditional Andalusian village.

By the time the latter were developed in the late 1970s the glamorous marina of Puerto Banús – itself inspired by Mediterranean styles – was almost a decade old. The period also saw the influx of Arab sheikhs, who along with colourful personalities such as Adnan Kashoggi brought with them a certain Arabian influence that would revive interest in Hispano-Moorish architecture. This much is still visible in urbanisations such as Alhambra del Mar, on the town side of the Golden Mile, where the soft, sensual forms of clear white plastered walls contrast with the deep blue of the sea and sky.

The latter 1990s saw a new phase of growth, and with it came a further evolution of style that saw more advanced construction methods accompany a shift from white plaster to sandy and terracotta tones. Among the many prominent South American architects such as Marcos Sainz, Ángel Taborda, Miguel Tobal and Juan Salvador Schvartzberg, who had made a name for themselves in Marbella, was a certain Melvin Villaroël. He created an iconic and much-used style when he introduced the terracotta tonalities of southern Morocco to the Hispano-Moorish architecture then prevalent.

Today, we are seeing a return to crisp, white tones, along with a return to the vanguardist architecture reminiscent of early modernist designs from the 1960s. Together with new construction techniques and materials, the latest technologies and the use of large panoramic windows, the style has injected a renewed interest in high-level architecture in Marbella. Not surprisingly, the area is now home to a growing number of beautifully styled contemporary homes that are capturing the hearts of a new generation of architects and home lovers alike, ushering in the latest phase in a long line of stylistic evolution that has shaped the Marbella of today.


Published in Marbella Property, Unique Properties |