One architectural element which is characteristic to the island is the Mallorcan Balcony, which consists of a half-point bridge and a stone balcony. It is a Roman design. Balconies are decorated with the colorful Mallorcan shutters, which are characteristic of the town of the Sierra de Tramuntana.
Life and color are things which all corners of the Balearic Islands transmit, in everything from the life supported by the flowerpots which decorate the entire town of Valldemossa, to the puree whiteness of the stone which predominates in some areas of Ibiza.
And this is partly because the island is greatly influenced by Roman architecture. Other elements which the island has inherited from Rome include the construction of bricks from chalk or mud, the water channels embedded in the walls, and cloisters. Some techniques are almost exact copies, such as the mud floor tiles, and others have been lost, like Roman weaving which we know here as Arabic weaving.
The principle characteristics of these houses are the exposed wooden beams, the bare earth floors, or with hydraulic tiles, stone arches to divide rooms, and the water tank in the interior of the house.
Typical Balearic Constructions
A possession (“posesión”) is the typical type of rural dwelling found on the Island of Mallorca. This construction was made up of living areas and other areas for agricultural purposes, which were found on the same plot of land.
It is the equivalent to the Catalan “masía”, the Basque “Caserío” and the Andalucian “cortijo”, which are other typical dwellings found in other parts of Spain, all of which have similar characteristics. .
The origin of the construction of the possession responded to the necessities of the farmers who, traditionally, have combined a system of crop rotation as principal source of income, with a complementary secondary source of income.
These buildings are fairly large, and are found isolated in the countryside, far from any urban areas. Currently, some possessions owned privately, have been converted into residences, often as a second home. Due to the rural boom, many of these buildings have been converted into use in the hospitality trade, as hotels or restaurants, and others as cultural centres or museums.
The patios of Mallorca are unique, different and diverse. They are one of the most characteristic elements of the Balearic city. In the old city, under the narrow alleys, you will find large and small patios capturing the light and, above all, the silence. The history of the Parios of Palma dates back to the 13th Century with the arrival of the gothic period, and ended between the 16th and 18th Centuries. In this era, the principle houses of the city have been rebuilt and, in some cases, reformed, in accordance with renaissance and baroque styles.
More than 20 of these patios can be found among the streets of Estudi General, Sant Bernat, Zanglada, Almudaina, Morey, Portella, Can Serra, Dusai, Vent, Sol, San Francesc, Terra Santa, Samaritana and Can Savellà.
The capital city is where you will find the greatest concentration of these patios. Because of this, there is a “patio trail” which you can follow to enjoy this typical Balearic construction. Below is a full list of the streets so that you can see them for yourself.
List of streets with Mallorcan Patios
- Calle Estudi General. Nº, 5, 9 y 15
- Calle Sant Roc, 9
- Calle Sant Bernat, 1
- Calle Zanglada. Nº 2a y 2b
- Calle Almudaina, 7
- Calle Morey. Nº 8 y 9
- Calle Portella. Nº 5 y 14
- Calle Can Serra, 8
- Calle Can Dusai, 3
- Calle Vent, 7
- Calle Sol. Nº 7 y 12
- Plaza de Sant Francesc, 10
- Calle Terra Santa, 5
- Calle Samaritana, 4
The structure is simple, with village houses normally having two floors – the first where the inhabitants used to live, and the upper floor which was used to store food for the animens, which were kept in the patio or back garden This is also where crops were planted and, if the well was not inside the house, it would be found in the patio.
Colors of Balearic constructions
Regions situated on the shore of the Mediterranean are subject to a very strong light which causes big shadows and contrasts within the illuminated areas. This light brings out the textures of the facades, marking the uneven quality of the stone. And, of course, this lighting plays an important role in the views which are formed with the conjunction of the blue sky and sea.
The Mediterranean house has been constructed to keep the interiors cool during the summer in those areas situated at sea level and, occasionally, to permit the passage of air and light through the nooks and crannies, something which is managed by the inclusion of patios, covered terraces and the gardens.
The use of white is common in some areas, because this colour reflects the light of the sun, instead of absorbing it. In mountain villages, inhabitants look for ways to maintain the heat in the cooler seasons, so their building are normally more compact and with smaller windows.
Inhabitants of the Mediterranean have known almost since the dawn of time how to take advantage of the light to create a natural ambience. Colour is what helps to highlight the unique personality of each building.
On many occasions, you will find traces of blue dye on the old dwellings of the towns, which was used to decorate the doorways and window dressings. Originally, it was believed that this colour would chase away demons and prevent them from entering.
Another peculiarity is that, not so long ago, powdered chalk would be mixed with egg white to make a better, more durable, whitewash – all thanks to the albumin from the egg.
Houses in the towns next to the beaches of Mallorca still conserve much of the original decoration of the fishing houses. Fishing villages are normally very colourful in the decoration of their doors and windows, because excess paint from the decoration of their boats would be used to protect the woodwork of the dwellings.