Benidorm Anomalies

MSc Studio



Olga Vazquez-Ruano, Marc Schoonderbeek, Freerk Hoekstra



1. Designed and managed as an industrial product, Benidorm attracts six million tourists every year. Once a small fishing village, today its one hundred and forty-four class ‘A’ skyscrapers rank it as one of the greatest cities of our time. As observed by Lash and Urry almost a decade ago, it is impossible to deny that within our current societies dominated by an almost ubiquitous sense of mobility, tourism and leisure have emerged as chief industries in the production of space, architecture and consequently, cities. With its hands-on approach to urban planning and design, Benidorm is paradise made affordable. The object of this proposal is the theoretical speculation surrounding this most remarkable utopian manifestation: how an exasperatingly neo-liberal territorial logic built for the accumulation of capital is capable of providing an alternate ‘welfare-state’ model relative to leisure.

2. Benidorm is a holiday factory. The city is intelligently designed to handle mass tourism and provide entertainment at reasonable prices. The secret of Benidorm lies in the fact that the speculators arrived after the city planners. In 1956, when Benidorm was not more than a small coastal town of sailors and agricultural laborers, a peculiar mayor, Pedro Zaragoza pursued an  idea that, in those days, must have seemed a mere illusion: to transform the town into a city for middle-class tourists. The proliferation of the towers became the most efficient and profitable system of construction. When building along vertical axes, the ground space becomes free rather than saturated by horizontal development. The best freeway is the elevator and 96% of the circulation movements in Benidorm are vertical. Spatial verticality is cheaper. As a result, there is also no feeling of confinement inside the city and the vertical typologies have a a-democratizing effect, the buildings have their own style: these are towers that look onto the sea, placing the servicing areas to the rear of the volume.

3. Locals call it 'Little New York' or 'Beniyork' because of its great number of high-rise buildings. Over 140 buildings with 20 or more floors have already been completed. The construction devoted to mass tourism began already in the 1960's, and today the city has about 145 hotels (36,000 beds) and a comparable number of apartments. Since 2000 it has surpassed Madrid in number of hotel beds, meaning that only Paris and London have more hotel beds in Europe than Benidorm. The tourist industry of this formerly silent fishing village alone accounts for around 1% of Spain's GNP.

text by Olga Vazquez Ruano

MSc studio BC, semester 07, 2005-08

Participants: Alice Bulla, Natalia Busch, Cheng Chang Chang, Michal Gdak, Shaojun Huang, Francesco Marullo, Sun-young Park, Kris Schaasberg, Yanling Tay, Chi Hung Tsai, Liang Wei.

Mentors: Olga Vazquez-Ruano, Marc Schoonderbeek, Freerk Hoekstra.

Benidorm Anomalies