TURN a sharp corner in Andalucia – and there are many of them – and you might see a bridge dating to the Roman occupation, a fortress built by the Moors, a mediaeval church, a whitewashed village or a soulless retail park. What you don’t see so often are monoliths raised during the Franco era . . .
I watched a television documentary a few months ago about fascist architecture in Europe, not because I’m particularly interested or enthusiastic about fascist architecture, more because the programme was the work of writer Jonathan Meades and I find his use of the English language captivating and engaging. He is a man of many words and his skill in weaving them together is delightful.
Can’t say I was too impressed by his chosen subject. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco did not possess the most delicate of tastes, with leanings towards grandiose projects displaying a brutal austerity that would not have been out of place in George Orwell’s nightmare world of 1984.
This decorative concrete structure – and I use the word decorative with hesitation – perched on the dam of Los Bermajales reservoir, south-west of Granada, is a bleak survivor of a bleaker era. Built in 1958 at the height of Franco’s power, it represents something dark and ugly that was finally vanquished in the 1970s when the dictator died and democracy brought light and freedom to Spain.
If you like your monuments angular, unembellished, and exhibiting the grace of a print from a jackboot, that’s fine. I find it more than a little disquieting. But, perhaps, because it’s situated in the middle of nowhere on a road hardly anyone travels, that says it all – It is history unloved and almost forgotten in an isolated backwater.