EDITION: August - October 2019

Iván Torres - Between tradition and modernity

By Diego Flores
At only 36 years of age, Iván Torres is already a renowned architect with a unique professional career that he has developed both on Ibiza and the mainland. He presides over the School of Architects on the island, and from his own Studio he has produced over forty buildings on Ibiza. His passion for construction derives from the intensity with which he is connected to his homeland and its history. Iván’s family lived as farmers on Ibiza for a long time, but in 1988 his father, Pedro Torres, started the family’s building company. Don Pedro Torres used to visit his building sites in the mornings, and whenever his son Iván did not have school he would go with him. The child was in awe as he watched the progress of the work, and he dreamt of building houses himself. From that time onwards Iván Torres never doubted his vocation. Even as a little boy, he was already an architect in his heart.

Iván graduated from the University of Barcelona in 2005, and a year later he founded Estudio ACT (Armani, Cogul& Torres) with his thesis professor and another classmate. Their headquarters were in Barcelona, and they started to develop projects in Milan, Piacenza, Barcelona and Ibiza. His first years working in the profession coincided with the last period of the real estate boom, allowing him to work on projects of very diverse scale. By 2008, with the real estate sector in crisis, the only market that remained was Ibiza. Having dissolved the company, Torres returned to Ibiza in order to set up his own architecture practice.

“My family’s past is lost in the dawn of time on this wonderful island that has had its times of splendour but also of darkness. The island has different regions and each has their own social and cultural micro-climates that involve identification through language, traditions and customs. The hidden Ibiza, the one that emerges as we go into the centre of the island, is not the same one that we may find on the coastal areas.”

“The places take the lead, the landscapes define...”

The houses designed by Iván Torres are based on a modular structure which comes together as a cohesive unit that is related to the land and follows its elevations and slopes. The spatial vision of this architect is based on keeping Ibiza’s traditions alive, while at the same time bringing it up to date with design and technical touches that relate to our present times.

“When we start designing houses to build on Ibiza, we do so with a deep respect for tradition. We visit the plot with a desire to generate a design that can respond to today’s modern requirements, but that can somehow still relate to the rich history of the place itself. The locations take the lead and the landscapes define the style, so it is important to work from them and with them, while not generating any conflict between our interventions and the landscape itself. At the same time, there is the history of each place, which in Ibiza is very rich. Highlighting the importance of all these things is necessary... even inevitable.”

This form of local architecture resulted from the scarce resources that were available. Everything needed to be logically inter-related to accomplish a practical purpose.

“Ibiza’s architecture is based on a pragmatic attitude regarding the landscape as a natural response to the historical fact that food production was the primary activity. Buildings were constructed on land where food could not be grown, and clearing the land that was arable provided the necessary stone for the buildings, which were erected on harder ground. Then the savina juniper’s tree trunks started to be used as beams, which meant that the air and lightness of the room would depend on the length of the available trunks. The walls of a one-storey house would generally be half a metre thick, sometimes a little more. This width would increase if it was a two-storey house, reaching a metre or more. The building process would generally begin with a room aimed at protecting the farmer’s tools and the food. As the family grew, more rooms were added that were connected to each other. When the number of rooms made it possible, a large inner patio would be created, and a porch, aimed at working with the produce of the land. The perimeter was completely closed, the walls were built with mortar and all the surfaces were painted with quicklime.”

Iván is now in his second term as the head of the School of Architects of Ibiza and Formentera. In this role he tries to influence the decisions regarding building regulations and the promotion of cultural values that he understands must be preserved.

“Landscapes are decisive, as are human interventions. The massed buildings of large cities condition the lives of people by determining their rhythm of life, while in small urbanizations it is not like that. Ibiza’s natural landscape is under great pressure. There are many powerful investors who are interested in building on our island. Regulations, which I think are excessive, have allowed a certain control of that boom that began in the mid-60’s and that continues today. Yet every year about 900,000 m2 are built here which is very high for an island of this size.”

The selection of Iván’s works that you see in these photos have a common denominator. They hold within their design details the secret of Ibiza. A secret that reflects contributions from the Carthaginians, Romans, Muslims and Christians... and from the beginning of time.