Territorio Mudéjar, the network of 34 municipalities created by the Provincial Government of Zaragoza that aims to conserve and promote Mudejar art in the province, has awarded 5 fieldwork grants and one second prize for the study, development of projects and management of natural and heritage resources in its member towns.

This is the second round of grants awarded under the project bearing the name of Gonzalo M. Borrás Gualis, as a tribute to the distinguished professor and Mudejar scholar. Each award consists of EUR 6,000, to be used for the development of research projects that are responsible, sustainable and innovative, have a direct impact on rural settings, foster their visibility and raise awareness about the area.

This year’s proposals were particularly outstanding, consisting of cross-disciplinary research teams from diverse Spanish and Italian institutions, with guidance from renowned experts. Under the selected proposals, projects will be developed in fields such as the restoration of construction materials like Mudejar plaster work, the conservation of traditional architecture, designing tours that combine agricultural cycles and Mudejar heritage, the creation of a Territorio Mudéjar podcast channel, a guide about historical carpentry in our towns and the study of new cultural management models for Mudejar civil architecture.

The aim of these grants is to promote awareness about the rural setting through its Mudejar identity by creating innovative perspectives that have a positive impact on the towns and foster networking about the possibilities arising from the region’s resources and from collaborative, cross-disciplinary work. In addition, they specifically aim to enhance knowledge about the Mudejar as World Heritage and about the benefits it affords as an international brand recognized by the UNESCO.

The selected projects are categorized into five lines of research: new perspectives on Mudejar art, Territorio Mudéjar and cultural landscape, management of cultural heritage, communication and dissemination of Mudejar heritage and Mudejar heritage and its role in society as a key element for regional development.

The projects one by one

1-“Mudejar plaster work, symbol of identity, knowledge and opportunities for the future”.

Traditional plaster work plays a key role in Mudejar architecture, used in both monumental and vernacular architecture, but it is also largely unknown, given that it is often incorrectly identified and confused with lime-based materials. In the 2019 fieldwork grant, architect Pedro Bel comprehensively documented the traditional plaster manufacturing process in 16 municipalities and drew attention to the obstacles involved in restoring plaster structures due to the lack of compatible materials. During the 2020 fieldwork grant, he is seeking solutions to the limitations for conservation of traditional plaster work with some ambitious goals: better understanding the material, raising awareness about its role in traditional Aragonese architecture and developing plaster that can be manufactured today in order to preserve the legacy handed down. Thus, he intends to reactivate quarries and find materials that are compatible with Mudejar plaster for restoration and renovation purposes, in order to re-introduce it in contemporary architecture.

There is a strong team of researchers behind this project, from the universities of Zaragoza, Granada, Malaga and the Polytechnic University of Madrid, as well as top rate consultants such as Ramón Rubio Domene, head of the plaster work and tile workshop of the Alhambra Trust, and Antonio Almagro Gorbea, scholar from the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

2-“Vernacular architecture in Mudejar villages: tools and networking for adaptive re-use and compatible intervention”.

In addition to their important monuments in terms of history and art, the Territorio Mudéjar towns also have simpler architecture that is, however, of great social and ethnological value, integrated into the environment and reflecting the cultural identity of the area. Proper preservation and spotlighting of this traditional architecture may be a launch pad for economic regeneration based on the use of these heritage spaces by private individuals in order to make historical villages more attractive and competitive. In this regard, a balance must be sought between preservation of architectural heritage and socio-economic development.

Javier Gómez Patrocinio, who holds a PhD in architecture from the University of Valencia, studied construction techniques and the prevailing dynamics of intervention in Territorio Mudéjar during his 2019 fieldwork grant. Now, he is progressing with the project and aims to design and implement tools to raise awareness among local communities about the value of vernacular architecture and the importance of preserving it, in order to help developers make renovations of traditional buildings more compatible.

3-“Mudejar heritage and agricultural cycles: The poetry of the landscape. Designing and scheduling pilot experiences for tours in different seasons”.

Agricultural heritage, as a cultural asset to be understood in a manner similar to intangible heritage, is an identifying feature and a unique, irreplaceable element of the surrounding landscape. With this fieldwork grant, art historians Juan Ignacio Santos Rodríguez and Elvira del Pilar Domínguez Castro will assess the level of representativeness and the types of this heritage in existence, as well as defining them and assessing their capacity to generate new heritage resources linked to the agricultural cycles and to Mudejar heritage. The aim is to come up with a schedule of activities that combine agricultural heritage and Mudejar architecture, rooted precisely in this landscape, linked to the agricultural cycles.

Pilot test routes are also included for the purpose of demonstrating the undeniable and unique symbiosis that the earth, farming production and materials found in the surroundings have with Mudejar architecture and decoration, in addition to strengthening the emotional bond of the inhabitants to their land, farming industry and products.

4-“Muros Loqui. The walls speak. A podcast for giving the region a voice”.

This communication project consists in creating a podcast channel for Territorio Mudéjar, to encourage and complement visits to the monuments in our towns. Travelers can listen to these podcasts via mobile technology at any time of the day or week, thus meeting the needs of small-scale sustainable tourism.

The podcast content does not replace the experience of visiting the relevant monument, which should always be explained on site by a specialist, but rather complements the visit with proposed routes in the surrounding area, to encourage visits to other towns, and provides additional information about the town as a supplement to existing tours and suggested activities available in the area. The project will also help consolidate the idea of Mudejar culture beyond the monuments themselves. This proposal will be developed by a team made up of Gianluca Vita (Polytechnic of Milan), Irene Ruiz (Polytechnic of Turin and University of Zaragoza) and Marco Marcellini, expert in new technology.

5-“Mudejar wood. Guide to historical carpentry in the towns of Territorio Mudéjar”.

This fieldwork grant falls within the category of New perspectives on Mudejar art, aiming to bolster awareness about and appreciation for all forms of Mudejar art expressed in wood: ceilings (alfarje structures and ridge trusses), windows, doors, eaves, choirs, organ platforms, choir stalls, carillons, etc. It consists in creating a specialized online publication that contains an inventory of works providing descriptions, conditions and images. In addition, it will include texts written by specialists on Mudejar carpentry techniques and concepts, a full bibliography on the subject and special chapters devoted to the masterpieces of historical carpentry in Territorio Mudéjar.

Myriam Monterde, an expert in cultural management and museum studies, and José Manuel Herraiz, an audiovisual producer and scriptwriter specialized in the historical and cultural genre, are in charge of conducting this research.

6-Second prize: “New models of cultural management and funding for Mudejar monumental/historical civil architecture restoration projects in the province of Zaragoza”.

Territorio Mudéjar has awarded second prize to a research project about Mudejar civil architecture. Art historians Ricardo Monreal Lafuente and Marta López Veamonte are responsible for this initiative, which will further the research process and data input that began in 2019. In the initial project, they sought to obtain up-to-date, technologically advanced material on the civil architecture with Mudejar elements in Territorio Mudéjar and to document the management model for these buildings. In 2020, the current phase will consist in specific work on one of the most important civil buildings in our region, the Palacio de los Luna, in Daroca. This will entail defining a working model for this type of Mudejar architecture and analyzing new historical and artistic heritage management models to enable these buildings to be used, thus making them more sustainable and strengthening their role in society and inclusion in village life. Means of financing restoration projects for these buildings will also be addressed.

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