Island architecture: The finca

The traditional Ibicenco farmhouse has been studied by some of the world’s most well-known architects, designers and bon vivants. Exalted figures such as architects Le Corbusier, Germán Rodríguez Arias, Josep Lluis Sert, Erwin Broner, photographer and Dadaist Raoul Hausmann and even philosopher and writer Walter Benjamin have all been beguiled by the beautiful simplicity of traditional island architecture.

One of the reasons for the fascination with the finca is its unadulterated form. Unlike other places in Europe there is scant evidence of Roman, Greek or Islamic influence and the unit of measurement used until very recently was the ‘long cubit’ – last seen somewhere during the Biblical era. Adding to the mysterious origins of the design is a lack of any official school – architectural and building methods were passed down, word of mouth, through the generations.

Built by the farmer, his family and the local community each finca is different yet shares common elements. The home was centred on a main entrance hall known as a porxo. The south facing front door would open onto this long, narrow room, which served as dining room, workroom and storage. From each of its three sides, more cubic rooms would be added as required by a growing family. Thick walls and small windows kept out the heat and local materials were used such as clay, Sabina wood, sea grass insulation and rocks from the land where the house was built.

The style is function over beauty and yet in the simplicity of the design, the sparse use of decorative elements and functional handmade furnishings exists something so authentically guileless that upon entering a home, one is overcome with a sense of purity. These were the very first minimalists – albeit ones that managed to exude warmth and familial comfort.

These days a legion of brave, design conscious souls have taken on some of these 300 to 500-year old homes and lovingly, painstakingly restored them to their full glory. Adding in modern comforts such as enlarged windows, skylights and heating as well as technological advancements in sustainability, these gorgeous slices of the island’s ancient heritage live on.