Alpujarra’s Architecture: adapted to the environment
The nearly eight centuries of Islam in the Alpujarra and Lecrín Valley left a permanent mark on the urban development of the area.
As with the white mountain villages of North Africa built on hillsides and at the bottom of valleys, the first Moorish settlers built their tahás on the slopes of Sierra Nevada. These villages and scattered farmsteads were the seed that led to the creation of larger settlements. Villages that have developed from these tahás include Alpujarra de la Sierra Nevada, La Tahá, Los Guájares, Lecrín and El Valle.
The urban design of the Alpujarra, inherited from the Moors, has maintained the structure of narrow, winding streets with cube-shaped houses stacked one on top of the other. Sometimes the streets widen out somewhat to create a small square, housing shops, bars, the town hall or the church.
The narrow streets, full of hidden corners, constantly change their level and direction and sometimes pass beneath the houses under a kind of bridge structure known as a tinao, with bare alfagías visible between the eaves. These tinaos are usually whitewashed together with the walls of the houses, combining with brightly coloured flowerpots and the area’s special light to create images of great plasticity, explaining to a great extent their attraction for artists. Another characteristic feature of these buildings is their conical chimneys, topped with a hat-like cover.
The mountain villages, which are always south-facing, are integrated naturally into the environment as if they were part of the landscape. The construction of the houses also reflects their surroundings, as materials obtained locally are used to build them: stone and adobe fot the walls, earthenware and manganese clay for the ceilings, and chestnut for the beams.
The traditional house is structured on two levels, with the lower level for animals and the terrao (granary) and the upper level as the dwelling-space, with a dining-room/kitchen with a large fireplace and the staircase down to the lor level. Light comes from a single window or balcony. The bedrooms are off this main room sometimes separated only by a simple curtain of traditional local cloth.
Source: Alpujarra Tourism Guide. Patronato Provincial de Turismo de Granada. Diputación de Granada.