The Territorio Mudéjar grants are endowed with EUR 6,000 each and will make it possible to develop six projects focused on fields such as the virtual reconstruction of buildings, traditional construction techniques and features, and the publication of educational material.
Territorio Mudéjar has awarded five fieldwork grants for the study and management of heritage and natural resources in its towns. These grants bear the name of Gonzalo M. Borrás Gualis, as a tribute to the distinguished professor who passed away in February 2019. Each grant is endowed with EUR 6,000, to be used for the development of a total of six responsible, sustainable and innovative research projects that have a direct impact on rural settings, foster their visibility and raise awareness about the area.
The projects are now underway – they began in early September – and all but one are being carried out by cross-disciplinary teams. As a mandatory condition, the researchers must stay for a certain amount of time in one or more of the towns in Territorio Mudéjar.
Although there were five lines of research in the call for proposals, the scientific committee decided to declare two of them null and void, meaning that all the grants fall within the other three categories: ‘New perspectives on Mudejar art’, ‘Territorio Mudéjar and cultural landscape’ and ‘Management of cultural heritage’.
The projects are:
Renewing the collective imagery about Mudejar
The project entitled ‘Contemporary Mudejar imagery’, led by art historian Irene Ruiz, aims to refresh the set of symbols and memories associated with this artistic and cultural phenomenon, moving beyond mere architectural elements. To do this, the initiative seeks to provide a new perspective on previously existing visual heritage, creating and integrating a contemporary new ‘level’ in the set of references that have up to now defined what Mudejar means.
By exploring the very definition of ‘Mudejar’ and engaging the region’s inhabitants through a series of experiences, the project will develop pilot actions (workshops, seminars, competitions, etc.) aimed at generating a new way of expressing today’s manner of “being Mudejar”. Based on a proposal involving work with photographs contributed by the residents themselves, the aim is to construct new stories that help spread the importance of images in 21st century communication and serve to teach about new visual languages that can be used to transmit a new way of “being Mudejar”.
The activities will be carried out in five specific towns but its effects will also be felt throughout Territorio Mudéjar over the internet and the social media, thus not only generating virtual feedback but also prompting short trips and meetings, which aid in “community-building”.
Virtual reconstruction of Mudejar buildings and school workshops and exhibitions
The second project selected is a cross-disciplinary initiative led by architect Luis Agustín, a professor at the School of Engineering and Architecture of University of Zaragoza, which proposes two complementary actions aimed at revaluing Mudejar heritage. On the one hand, several buildings will be registered in a digital inventory. On the other, data collection and analysis techniques and technology will be introduced in educational settings in Territorio Mudéjar.
The first of these actions is scientific in nature and will enable the virtual reconstruction of these buildings, thus having a strong impact on the scientific community. The second, of a participatory nature, will prompt value creation through association with a brand image, ‘Territorio Mudéjar, which has a significant impact on the inhabitants of these towns.
Educational material on depopulation and heritage
The third fieldwork grant will go to a cross-disciplinary project led by secondary school teacher Carlos Guallart, consisting in preparing educational materials for classwork on the relationships between depopulation and cultural heritage in Territorio Mudéjar.
The purpose of these materials is to help students appreciate the natural and cultural heritage in these towns and to enable them to generate proposals for economic and demographic growth in order to counteract this depopulation trend.
The materials created during the project will be openly available for use by other schools as well, thus also fostering knowledge about Mudejar heritage in towns beyond Territorio Mudéjar.
Making use of Mudejar civil architecture
Another grant was awarded to a research project on Mudejar civil architecture. Led by art historian Ricardo Monreal, this cross-disciplinary initiative consists of a research and data input process that has two main goals: to obtain up-to-date, technologically advanced material on civil architecture with Mudejar elements within Territorio Mudéjar, and to set up phase 0 of a monument management project aimed at putting these buildings to use, thus contributing to their sustainability, their role in society and their inclusion in village life.
Vernacular architecture, traditional construction trades and Mudejar plaster work as a symbol of identity, knowledge and opportunities
Monumental Mudejar architecture uses some of the same materials and techniques as the vernacular architecture found in many towns and used in everyday life by the general public, thus making it highly valuable in social and ethnological terms.
From a modern perspective, the use of local materials gives this unique regional architecture an unparalleled ability to blend in with the environment, with a clean life cycle that allows it to break down and return to the earth, leaving barely a trace. However, over the course of the 20th century, industrial development has prompted an abrupt transformation and destruction of vernacular buildings and a gradual decline in traditional construction techniques. These processes, often driven by tourism and industry, gradually unravel the historical and architectural fabric of a town until it is stripped of its character.
To counteract this situation, architects Javier Gómez Patrocinio and Pedro Bel Anzue highlight the importance of knowledge about and appreciation for traditional local architecture and construction materials with a view to protecting them. Only if a town’s inhabitants understand these elements and hold them in regard can they avoid replacing them with new buildings and encourage their preservation.
To achieve this, it is essential to make alternatives to the use of industrialized materials available to homeowners, and for this, the work of local artisans who understand traditional construction systems is crucial. Raising appreciation for these trades helps drive the economy in the region through its heritage and encourages local talent to stay when they would otherwise end up at large companies in the construction industry.
One significant material in this regard is traditional, or Mudejar, plaster work, preservation of which poses a great challenge because there are no materials currently available for use in restoration work. Neither the plaster nor the lime or cement of today can be used to refill spaces or brace elements because traditional plaster has very different behavior and mineralogical properties.
While Javier Gómez is working on the inventory and conducting a general examination of materials, Pedro Bel is focusing on continuing his doctoral thesis, which confirmed that Mudejar plaster production techniques remained unchanged until the mid-20th century.
Through this project they hope to locate former plaster artisans, to interview them and document their techniques and variations. In the process, they will also visit quarries and former gypsum furnaces, documenting their conditions and creating a 3D photogrammetric survey at those of particular interest; they will create a registry to identify the region’s buildings with typical Mudejar plaster features and they will analyze all this documentation to reach their conclusions.
The ultimate aim is to revitalize work spaces linked to construction trades, re-activating them by creating a local business devoted to traditional or Mudejar plaster production.
The goal of the Gonzalo M. Borrás Gualis fieldwork grants
Through this first call for proposals to the Gonzalo M. Borrás Gualis grants for projects and fieldwork, Territorio Mudéjar aims to promote awareness about the rural setting through its Mudejar identity by creating innovative perspectives that have a positive impact on the towns and that foster networking about the possibilities arising from the region’s resources and from collaborative, cross-disciplinary work. It also seeks to create dynamics of social participation in relation to heritage. In addition, it specifically endeavors to enhance knowledge about the Mudejar as World Heritage and about the benefits it affords as an international brand recognized by the UNESCO.
Conditions for submitting proposals