2019 Fieldwork: Mudejar plaster work, as used today: searching the memories of artisans for the keys to traditional production

The fieldwork project entitled Mudejar plaster work, as used today represented the next step in Pedro Bel’s doctoral thesis, which confirmed that Mudejar plaster production techniques remained unchanged until the mid-20th century. This research digs further into the traditional plaster production process to gain an in-depth understanding of it and to identify the catalysts and motives that led to changes in today’s plaster production, increasing its quantity and reducing its quality. During the project, former plaster artisans were located and their technique was documented, noting the variations today. In the process, quarries and former gypsum furnaces were also visited, documenting their conditions and creating a 3D photogrammetric survey at those of particular interest; a registry was also made to identify the region’s buildings with typical Mudejar plaster features. As stated in the conclusion, 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 research took place in the towns of Aniñón, Borja, Calatayud, Daroca, Fuentes de Ebro, La Almunia de Doña Godina, Longares, Maluenda, Quinto de Ebro, Ricla, San Mateo de Gállego, Tauste, Terrer, Tobed, Villamayor, Villafeliche and Villar de los Navarros.

The study shows that traditional plaster production processes were prevalent until 1950, after which time the technology at the quarries began to develop rapidly. Those that failed to adapt quickly became obsolete and went bankrupt, making it commonplace to find gypsum plaster furnaces still intact and storerooms containing gypsum at the old Aragonese quarries. The semi-industrialization that took place in the fifties altered the traditional plaster made, and the change that had the greatest impact was when manual grinding was replaced with mechanical grinding procedures.

External factors that influenced this phenomenon include strong demographic growth stemming from a favorable economic and social setting, which led to strong demand, thus driving the pre-industrialization process.

LINE OF RESEARCH: (1) New Perspectives on Mudejar Art

THE AUTHOR: Pedro Bel Anzué is an architect with a PhD in Architectural Heritage Restoration from the University of Granada.