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Master Class: “Punta Nati: Saving Heritage” – (part 1)

by Sean Adcock and Mela Sánchez Gómez

In Spring 2013 Stonechat 28 visited Menorca, Borut Juvanec took us around the corbelled structures on the island whilst I adapted Frederique Mahieu’s leaflet about the Espai paret seca – the dry stone wall space that she built in Líthica, Pedreres de s’Hostal on the outskirts of the capital Ciutadella. In the summer of 2014 to commemorate my long-suffering partner (the ubiquitous wall measurement aka Brenda) passing a significant landmark in years I treated her to a trip to Menorca. We met up with Frederique who showed us around Lithica and then took us to see the stone buildings known as barracas and pont de belar between Ciutadella and Punta Nati which had featured in Professor Juvanec’s article. Stunning, amazing, everything I had imagined, as it turns out it was well worth treating Brenda. Obviously I had no ulterior motive at all.

Master class- Punta Nati- Saving Heritage-1b

Above: Brenda and the corbelled dome of the barraca shown top right.
Below: Brenda in doorway of a simple pont, interior shown on right. All © Sean Adcock

Frederique at the Med Stone Congress 2017 © Sean Adcock

Balearics, despite the land being recognised as an ‘Area of Landscape interest’ on the “Plan Insular Territorial” (Island Territorial Plan). Scores of barracas and ponts would be engulfed, would they be destroyed, or worked around? Even if they survived surrounded by a sea of over 200000 panels and over 100 prefabricated buildings, a 400m2 substation, 1600m2 of semi buried buildings, totalling over 4000m2 of excavations for building not to mention access roads and cabling, all likely representing irreversible change3. Inevitably a huge chunk of this unique landscape would lose its intrinsic worth. I was horrified and so planned to include something in Stonechat about the campaign to save the Punta Nati Landscape, but since then there has not been a Stonechat. Over two years down the line, fearing for the fate of the area, it was with some trepidation that I eventually contacted Frederique and asked if she knew of anyone who might contribute an article. She sent me a computer translated version of Mela Sánchez Gómez article for Hispania nostra: “Punta Nati: Un Patrimonio Salvado Gracias A La Accion De La Sociedad Civil (Punta Nati: A Saved Heritage Thanks To The Action Of Civil Society), which forms the basis for much of this article.

We were to meet up with Frederique again in 2017 on Mallorca at “The Med-Stone Congress :Dry-stone Technique to World Heritage“ where Frederique was one of the speakers. When visiting the barracas in 2014, we had noticed what to us seemed a sizeable solar park. I was to later discover that this was the Son Salomó solar park, the first on the island. It had been granted planning permission in 2006 and opened in 2008. 15000 solar panels had been installed covering 10 hectares and generating 3MW.2 During Frederique’s presentation I discovered there was a plan (in fact proposed in 2013) to extend to the farm to cover a total of 173 hectares which would make it the largest solar park in the

Punta Nati Solar Park © Gemma Andreu

The livestock plains around Punta Nati are arguably the most important dry stone Cultural Landscape not just in Minorca but the whole the Mediterranean. The Son Salomó estate contains the highest density and quality of ethnological/historic structures in Minorca, which together form this unique landscape.

The unique landscape of punta Nati – take a pont, add a barraca some walls and fields repeat seemingly ad infinitum…. Photo by kind permission amics de punta © Ángel Roca Vidal

Extract from leaflet produced by Amics de Punta Nati (friends of Punta Nati) showing the location of buildings and the extent of the proposed solar park. Courtesy of Amics de Punta Nati

Despite this as part of a push for increased renewable energy production the extension to the solar park was applauded by politicians the Menorcan administration and sections of society. There seemed no hesitation in this attack on the cultural landscape, heritage was to be sacrificed, a victim of misunderstood progress. Fortunately, faced with this misunderstood progress. Fortunately, faced with this part of society raised its voice – channelled through SHAMB – Societat Històrico Arqueològica Martí i Bella (the Marti Bella Historical and Archaeological Society) which urged the island’s governing body, Consell Insular de Menorca (CIMe), to declare the area a B.I.C. (Bien de Interés Cultural – Property of Cultural Interest) making the area of Punta Nati a ‘Place of Ethnological Interest’.

The BIC designation has existed in Spain since 1985. Prior to that some heritage was categorised as a Monumento nacional (national monument), the change expanded the protection to include not only buildings, but landscape and even intangible cultural assets (folklore, customs etc) . One translation of the categorisation is a “Cultural interest Asset”.4
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In the summer of 2016 Fundació Lithica-Pedreres de s’Hostal (the organisation which runs Lithica mentioned earlier) , joined SHAMB in promoting, a photographic competition with an exhibition in Ciutadella – “Punta Nati, Paisaje de piedra. ¿Un paisaje cultural en peligro?”, (Punta Nati, a stone landscape: a cultural landscape in danger). For the first time Menorcan society was exposed to the scale of the project and the danger of heritage destruction. At the end of the exhibition and due to the CIMe’s insistence on continuing with the project, it was recognised that the campaign would be protracted. Consequently SHAMB and Lithica created “Amics de Punta Nati” (Friends of Punta Nati), a non-profit organisation who’s objectives are “the defence, preservation, study and dissemination of the ethnological, architectural, natural and landscape values of the area identified as Punta Nati, the territory of the Ciutadella tramuntana that stretches from Torre del Ram to Cala Morell”.5
Many other people and organisations subsequently added their voices to the campaign, joining SHAMB, Lithica and Amics de Punta Nati,, valuing the Cultural Landscape with its exceptional characteristics as a treasure worth the maximum protection possible as a B.I.C.
ICOMOS España (International Council on Monuments and Sites, Spain) Hispania Nostra, Europa Nostra, Asociación Española de Paisajistas (the Spanish Association of Landscape Architects), el Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (the Higher Council of Scientific Research), la Universitat de les Illes Balears (University of the Balearic Islands), SPS (Société scientifique internationale pour l’étude pluridisciplinaire de la Pierre Sèche – the International Scientific Society for the Study of Dry Stone) as well as groups and personalities from the scientific and academic world, joined the campaign and a petition of more than 6,000 signatures was drawn up.

The content above was copied with the generous permission of the authors Sean Adcock and Mela Sánchez Gómez

This Master Class article originally appeared in issue 33 of Stonechat, produced by the North Wales Branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great BritainThis entire issue of Stonechat, and many more, are available at http://www.dswales.org.uk/Stonechat.html  

Thank you to Sean Adcock and Mela Sánchez Gómez for allowing us to provide this content, and please donate to the North Wales Branch.