The marés in traditional architecture in Mallorca
Marés is a type of sandstone from the Balearic Islands. It is one of the most representative and characteristic building materials of the traditional architecture of Mallorca. It is easy to observe the marés in different constructions on the island, especially in the villages. We find it in all kinds of old buildings, but also, in an unpolished state, in dividing walls. It was widely used in the construction of buildings and walls, highlighting emblematic buildings like the Cathedral of Mallorca, the Almudaina Palace, the Bellver Castle and the city walls of Palma.
Due to geographic isolation, construction materials that came from the peninsula and the rest of the continent had a very high price. Therefore,local materials were used and stand out in the Mallorcan style, for example, mares sandstone, calcite and mud (for formation of tiles). The marés is especially important in the coastal areas and in the Levante and Migjorn areas. It is formed by fragments of fossiliferous sands (chalcoarenites and eolianites) with limestone cementation, or it can be formed by a mixture of sand and seashells.
Currently in Mallorca there are sixteen active Marés quarries (pedreres): in Felanitx, Llucmajor, Campos, Manacor, Muro, Petra, Santa Margalida and Santanyí. In Menorca there are three active quarries. These are open pit quarries, which are deepened and selected according to quality. The extraction of the stone has a low environmental impact, but the construction with marés has its days counted due to the exhaustion of the quarries.
What characteristics does marés have for construction in Mallorca?
The marés and its quarries are of cultural interest and constitute a geological, historical and ethnological heritage value. With regard to the level of social sustainability, the profession and the construction tradition of the islands are maintained.
The traditional style was based on blocks of sandstone, very useful for the execution of walls and vaults. In the buildings of the upper classes, the blocks, or ashlars, were mostly of rectangular shape. The ashlars could be uniform or heterogeneous depending on the period. In the buildings of the most humble classes, the discarded marés residues were used to make cement for construction. It is a more manageable and cheaper format than that of blocks, and it is more frequent in more modern times.
There are several types of marés according to their origin, and each quarry has its own properties. In construction, it is important to select the right quarry for the required use, taking into account characteristics such as density, porosity, resistance and colour. The sandstone is easy to extract and handle, and its use has several advantages. It requires little maintenance and no treatment with plaster or paint on the surface. It is a material that breathes and regulates humidity, which is ideal for a home in summer in Mallorca. However, it can be a disadvantage in winter, when humidity meets low temperatures.
The exploitation of marés has suffered a decline, due to the demand for speed and profitability in construction, the arrival of new technologies and the introduction of concrete and other materials. Currently, in many cases the marés sandstone has left its structural function, to be used as cladding or ornamentation. It is also possible to use barrel vault structures and arches at economical prices. Marés is a material linked to the culture and popular architecture of the Balearic Islands, and for this reason it continues to be used, since there is a desire to maintain the typical aesthetics of the traditional buildings of Mallorca.
In the rehabilitations, today an attempt is being made to restore walls made with sandstone, which had been covered by other materials.
Can Lis in Porto Petro is a good example of the most recent marés architecture. It was built in 1972 by the famous Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who brought the marés stone into modern times.
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