Our last article looked at a number of individual buildings in the centre of Murcia City which could be described as having some modern architectural value. This continues that theme, though concentrating on several municipal buildings (including a bridge!) and two “open spaces”.
Ayuntamiento and Annex
This impressive building faces the flower beds before the road and Río Segura, near the Puente Viejo. Its façade is a mixture of styles with carved flower decorations in the stonework, a horn of plenty and colonnades. It is painted in yellow/beige and a light terracotta. It covers three floors and has a large entrance door/area with the inevitable balcony above, on to which open feature windows. This neoclassic construction dates from 1848 and it was built on what had once been the site of an Arab Palace. If you are able to get inside, you will find a grand entrance area with a feature staircase rising up to the first floor. There are large columns around the staircase and an abundance of stained glass windows. It is all very ornately decorated with some fine chandeliers.
The Town Hall also has an annex, added in 1998, opposite the Cathedral in the square behind. This annex has been built in a very modern style, in brick and sandstone, which, in some senses, is entirely out of place in such a historic core. However, its style is intended to reflect the Cathedral rather than to distract attention from it.
This building overlooks the Río Segura on one side and is a short but very pleasant walk past the Ayuntamiento and Bishop’s Palace in the riverside gardens by the main road. Today it is University Offices, though the present building, constructed in 1915 in a renaissance like style, is, as its name might suggest, on the site of a former hospital (for priests) and garden. It is unmistakeably modern in style with the two side blocks of the building, of five windows’ width, separated by a central tower which is slightly recessed. Above the entrance doors of the central tower are windows with a balcony on both the first and second floors and without a balcony on the third floor, above which rises a small tower like structure with coloured blocks at the top and a wind vane/spire topping it all off. The building is also decorated with small castellations and turrets.
Jardin de Floridablanca
In front of the Iglesia del Carmen, just over the river from the Ayuntamiento, are the Floridablanca Gardens. The gardens are not particularly extensive and are of a simple rectangular shape. They nevertheless form a very pleasant oasis in the urban environment and there are plenty of seats in them on which to sit if you wish. These were the first public gardens to be opened in Spain and are said to exhibit the philosophy of a Moorish garden design with flower beds in line and the sound of running water, an avenue of poplars and a rose garden with over 1,400 bushes. There are rubber trees planted in 1914 and a jacaranda said to be the oldest in any garden in Murcia. Some of the root systems are visible above ground and are extremely impressive! The gardens are named after the Count of Floridablanca who was a Prime Minister of King Charles III and King Charles IV.
Pasarela del Malecón
At the beginning of the Malecón, you can hardly fail to notice the curved footbridge which is supported by steel wires on just one side, from a large mast-like structure which is itself on an island in the Río Segura. The mast is said to be 30 metres high with 45 steel ropes supporting the footbridge which was opened in 1997. It is held that the whole structure represents a lighthouse on a quay. We have been assured that the bridge, known as the Pasarela del Malecón, is the sole structure of its kind in the world.
The Mercado Verónicas
This building dates from the beginning of the 20th Century, having been designed by the well-known architect, Pedro Cérdan, but with some later reconstruction. It has been described to us as being of eclectic, mixed, but modern style and you will notice the prominence of columns on the outside. The stonework at the top of the façade is quite pointed at the front, but noticeably more rounded around the side. The grand entrance at the front end is arched with small turreted towers to the sides and in the centre where there is also a coat of arms. At the very sides of the front are two further turreted towers. To the sides of the entrance are four small pillared windows. Altogether the building certainly has its own distinctive style! Inside, the market is on two floors with an escalator link between them. There has been a market in this area since the 15th Century.
Plaza de Las Flores
This pleasant square is surrounded by typical Murcian houses from the beginning of the 20th Century. Iron railed balconies and protruding windows abound. Look around at the surrounding buildings. There is a variety of colours, materials and styles. One building has white windows which project out on one side and balconies overlooking a taller building to the left. The balconies have brown vases underneath. Another building has decorative tiles on both sides of projecting windows and on the underside of the roof overhang.
Murcian Regional Artisan Centre
This modern building houses a very large exhibition area with a multitude of craft products within it – glass, boxes, wood items, pictures, tiles, jewellery and a whole range of other artisan products which you can look at and even purchase if you wish. The ceramic items in particular are often very brightly coloured with animals and people in traditional Murcian style. You ascend to the higher levels of the centre by sloping walkways which seem to go on for ever! It is located on Calle Francisco Rabal by the Jardin del Salitre. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday 10am-2pm, and 4.30pm-8.30pm. Those who exhibit in this enormous space will be officially registered with the relevant Murcian body and there will be many prize winning objects among the various exhibits.
Part taken from “Exploring Murcia – Murcia City”, by Clive and Rosie Palmer. Clive and Rosie have written several guide books on towns and regions in Murcia which are available, from www.lulu.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. “Exploring Murcia, Days Out” and “Exploring Murcia – Cartagena” are available to buy from the Costa Cálida Chronicle office on Camposol B, Best Wishes (who also stock other of their books), or phone Patti on 968 433 978.