When an architect is affectionately referred to by profession instead of by name, you sense just how far-reaching their impact has been. So, it is with Gaspar Bennazar, one of Palma’s principal architects at the turn of the twentieth century, who is widely referred to today simply as ‘El Arquitecto Bennazar’ or by locals in Mallorquín dialect, as ‘S'Arquitecte’ (‘the architect’).
After graduating from the Higher School of Architecture in Madrid in 1899, Mallorcan Bennazar quickly rose up the ranks, becoming Palma’s municipal architect. Influenced by both neo-Gothic and modernist Catalan architecture, his aim was to design elegant and functional buildings which reflected the island’s natural beauty while inspiring tourists to enjoy their leisure time both in the capital and beyond.
‘He devoted his career to balancing the two axes of his professional life,’ says his granddaughter Maribel Bennazar, whose book pays homage to the life of this exceptional creative. ‘On the one hand, his utopian dreams, which centred on making our island and the city of Palma a flagship of progress and modernity, and on the other, unavoidable realities, incessantly cloaked in human criteria and tight budgets.’
Despite these inevitable constraints, Bennazar successfully spearheaded Palma’s remodelling project, which began in 1916, with several notable results: seafront promenade Paseo Marítimo, the Caja de Ahorros in Plaza de San Francisco, the former Born cinema, now Zara, the Caubet building which currently houses Joyería Tous and the southern façade of the Almudaina Palace, among many others. The architect, so passionate about the island and its beautiful capital, died in 1933, but his imprint remains indelible, having helped to mould Palma into the vibrant city that it is today.