A 90-year-old lighthouse in northern Spain is giving way. The reason: the remodeling of the structure by artist Okuda San Miguel, who used vibrant shapes and colors to paint it – which not everyone liked. For almost a century, Faro de Ajo in Cantabria was just a white tower with a light at the top.
The renovation proposal was made by the municipality and the artist, born in Santander, was inspired by “the magnificent importance of nature in a place like Cantabria, where there are still wild beaches and green areas that extend almost to the sea ”, to reinvent the lighthouse. “The colors and geometry represent indigenous culture, multiculturalism and freedom,” he told The Guardian.
The animals he chose to represent in the 16-meter tower are typical of the locality: wolves, bears, seagulls and vultures. The result of the intervention is a mixture of colors, shapes and animals, with a bold color palette. The aim is to bring more visitors to one of the lesser known places on the Spanish coast. According to the regional government, part of the money raised during lighthouse events or marketing will be invested in food banks in the region.
Okuda San Miguel (right) was the artist responsible for the DR intervention
But Cantabria Infinita, as the intervention was called, didn’t turn everyone on. At the start of the year, nearly four thousand people signed a petition to keep the lighthouse white, stressing that the renovation “completely changes the style of Faro de Ajo and does not respect the architectural heritage of Cantabria”. In addition to the petition, five cultural groups wrote to the mayor, asking him to consider whether the project was “appropriate” and whether the lighthouse would be the best candidate for intervention.
Criticism also came from the regional United Left party, which reported the case to prosecutors and called for an analysis to be done to see if local authorities had violated cultural heritage laws – an investigation has been opened.
The negative reactions caught Okuda off guard: “Of course I understand the criticism – and that some people want to keep things as they always have been. But I believe that my job, among other things, is to bring my language and my iconography to places and give them a new life, ”he said, quoted in the same text.
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Since its opening after the intervention on August 28, thousands of people have visited the lighthouse. And, according to the artist, some children shared their own interpretations of the artist’s work. “A girl showed me the photos she took at the lighthouse. It was amazing. For some time now, school children in Spain, Miami, everywhere have been writing to me to tell me how much my work has helped them learn art and colors. It makes me proud.
Okuda, who has similar plans with this one – like turning an abandoned church into a colorful skate park – will wait and see how the problem is resolved. “The Port Authority said it will be a non-permanent job that will last eight years, so let’s see what happens by then. But I hope it will stay that way forever, ”said the artist.
“Ultimately, the most important thing about a lighthouse is its light, and it continues to function. Even though the boats are equipped with GPS and modern systems that virtually eliminate the need for headlights. And, as for the artwork (although not accepted as such by everyone), the artist jokes: “At least no one was indifferent.”