Oscar R. Window
Valladolid (EFE).- A hotel, a spa, a theater, a viewpoint, a climbing park, an art store, a rural macro-canvas for urban artists and even a car park; In all of this, dozens of grain silos and warehouses have been converted or are going to be transformed.
The list of projects aimed at changing the use of historic grain silos increases year by year in Spain, where most of these country cathedrals belong to agricultural cooperatives and the State, which tries to sell them periodically through auctions.
They are true masses, with limitations for the change of use due to their original use as a grain store and their rigid retaining walls, in their day designed almost bomb-proof, which makes reforms of this type of project difficult and more expensive, according to The architect Carlos Mateo has explained to EFE, dedicated for years to the cataloging and analysis of the National Network of Silos and Granaries -www.silosygraneros.es- and to developing projects for change of use.
Cultural use of silos
In this architectural adventure of changing the use of one of these colossi, one of the first experiences in Spain was that of the Pozoblanco theater (Córdoba), inaugurated in 2006 and consolidated as an avant-garde cultural space, but since then other examples mark a path that, linked to the disuse of traditional railway lines, have tourism as the main ingredient.
The castle of Arévalo (Ávila), from the 15th century, converted into a silo between 1952 and 1977, currently houses the Museum of Cereals and is an interpretation center on the importance of grain warehouses in the 20th century, but it is not the only example of change of use linked to tourism.
The Fuentes de Andalucía viewpoint (Seville), the old flour factory that is now the Tximista hotel, in Estella (Navarra), and the El Silo eco-hotel viewpoint, in Bello (Teruel), are also already realities in this new dynamic, generating job opportunities for people with disabilities through the Titanes urban art project, developed in the province of Ciudad Real.
In this last initiative, renowned Spanish and international urban artists have been involved, who have filled with color the enormous walls of the La Mancha silos of Calzada de Calatrava, Corral de Calatrava, Herencia, La Solana, Malagón, Manzanares (I and II), Porzuna , Villanueva de los Infantes and Campo de Criptana.
The naturalist organization Grefa, in an action supported by the Ministry of the Environment, also contributed from 2010 to another idea for adapting silos to create an ecological corridor for the lesser kestrel with the placement of up to a thousand nests in Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, Andalusia and Extremadura.
From parking to accommodation in silos
The last buyer in Spain in one of the direct awards promoted by the Spanish Agrarian Guarantee Fund (FEGA), owner of most of the properties, has been Jesús Javier Hinojosa, owner of a mechanical workshop in Belchite (Zaragoza), who he sees an opportunity in taking over his town’s silo, as he explained to EFE.
The first way to amortize his investment – some 102,000 euros – will be to adapt a good part of the 5,400 square meters of the silo plot as a car park for his workshop, although the potential goes further and his children are already planning a space for the main building accommodation linked to the use of a climbing via ferrata, with a recreation area.
In a similar sense, but with more implications, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda has signed a protocol with the Castilla-La Mancha Government, the Cuenca Provincial Council and the Cuenca City Council to develop the XCuenca project: a series of actions in the field of transport that have tourist derivatives and recovery of industrial buildings, such as silos and railway stations.
Specifically, the idea is to adapt the old railway line between Tarancón and Utiel to a different social use, the urban integration of the railway land located on the sides or margins of the tracks and the adaptation of the railway section as a “greenway” for its subsequent use by pedestrians and cyclists, among other uses, according to the documentation provided by the Ministry.
On this project, the architect Carlos Mateo has highlighted the potential that these ideas have to settle the population in rural Spain, since these are initiatives that have worked in highly populated urban environments in Europe and also in Spain -the case of the cultural space Matadero de Madrid-, and can be constituted as a complement and synergy for the economic development of these areas.