"El Saler, per al poble"


Architecture and Political Transformation in Spain

The Planning Project of 'La Dehesa de El Saler'

Tourism played a relevant role in the great economic development during late Francoism (ca. 1960-1975). The design of spaces for tourism characterized an economic and political system and mutated along with its development. The 'La Dehesa de El Saler' planning project and its successive modifications represent the transformation of the tourism planning model, next to political and social changes. In the first part of this article, the economic and political status of Francoism before the explosion of mass tourism (1939-1960) is presented, comparing it with the architecture paragidm. Then, the conflict between urban planning for tourism and nature is analyzed through publications of the time. In the third part, the case of 'La Dehesa de El Saler' exposes the affiliation between local power, the national government, and architecture. The analysis of the different stages of the project next to the social and political situation shows how the critical attitude towards urban authoritarianism and its consequent destruction of nature increased on the road to democracy. This issue has previously been addressed from a political or environmental perspective without considering the role of the design. To conclude, it ends with an evaluation of how opposition to planning injustices enriches democratic behaviour.

Keywords: Architecture, Francoism, tourism, landscape, planning, democracy

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Spanish State Tourism Department, ca.1950.

La Dehesa Project Information brochure.
Oficina Municipal de turismo, 1970. Excmo. Ayto de Valencia. Paper print. Source: Valencia Municipal Archive