December 30, 2019

Miguel Torres Ortega, Hostal Restaurante Las Conchas


front view of the hotel-restaurant "Las Conchas"
from their website

It could be assumed that houses decorated with shells are located close to the sea, and indeed that is often the case¹. But there are exceptions² . Some of such creations are located remote from the sea, such as above pictured hotel-restaurant Las Conchas (the shells), which is located in the community of Azuaga, Spain, some 240 km remote from the nearest beach.

Life and works

The internet has virtually no biographical information about Miguel Torres Ortega (? - around 1986), who decorated exterior and interior of his hotel-restaurant with loads of shells. 

It is not clear when and where he was born. In fact, it is only known that he became the owner of the hotel in 1965 and in 1967 decided to decorate the building inside and outside with shells.

decorations in the interior 
picture (2013) by Lu de Di on website Foursquare

In her short contribution to the book Escultecturas margivagantes (2006), compiled by Antonio Ramirez, Maria del Mar Lozano Bartolozzi reports that in 1967 a party of people consumed a meal with many shellfish in the restaurant and that Miguel Torres then thought it was better not to throw away remaining shells, but to use these to decorate the property.

So he began a project that would keep him active until the early 1980's.

an old postcard with the shell decorated restaurant room 

The meals of the guests of the hotel and the visitors of the restaurant did not nearly produce enough shells to decorate the many pillars and pieces of wall, inside and outside. 

So there had to be collected by the sea. And thus it became customary to travel during the weekends -after closing time of the restaurant around midnight- to the city of Huelva with its kilometers of sandy beaches to collect shells there, a trip back and forth of about 480 km.

In making these trips, Torres was often accompanied by family members and friends.

The decorations in the interior are mainly present in the large restaurant room, which in addition to the buffet has many pillars.

the name of the site on a wall
picture (2012) from weblog Rutas Culturales

On the outside, the building, situated on the corner of two streets, has a fairly large wall surface that is completely covered with shells.

Both inside and outside the shells are basically arranged in a calm single-color pattern, supplemented with the name of the site (Las Conchas), repeating geometric arrangements (such as circles) or some  representations that have to do with the sea (such as fishes or ships).

one of the ships on the decorations of the exterior wall
(screenprint from streetview)

Torres died around 1986. 

His son Manuel took over the operation of hotel and restaurant and the care of the maintenance of the decorations

decorations around the entrance
picture (2013) by Rayko Lorenzo on website Foursquare

Documentation
Maria del Mar Lozano Bartolozzi, "Epidermis marinera ornamental Casa de Azuaga (Badajoz)", in: Juan Antonio Ramirez, red, Escultecturas margivagantes: la arquitectura fantástica en España,  Madrid (Siruela), 2006. -p 331
Website about Extremadura with a page about hotels in Azuaga with a description of Las Conchas and the story about the trips to the beach to collect shells.

notes
¹ such as Alfred Pedersen from Denmark, François Bothorel from France and Kevin Ffrench from France
² such as Angelo Cerpelloni from Italy and Herbert Reigner from Austria

Miguel Torres Ortega
Hostal Restaurant Las Conchas
Avenida de Extremadura 31
(on the corner of Avenida Estación)
06920 Azuaga, dept Badajoz, region Extremadura, Spain
exterior can be seen from the street



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