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Operetta and the border space. Two projects for a forgotten frontier. Portbou, Spain

Part 2 Project 2012
Laura Feroldi
University of East London, UK
At the beginning of the 20th century, large international marshalling yards were constructed in the frontier towns of Cerbère, France and Portbou, Spain.
Portbou was quickly transformed from a small fishing village into a rich busy town.
Nowadays, with the rail yards becoming increasingly redundant, the town is slowly being left to decay. Portbou seems to exist only around its history and memory; it is a space of waiting, but at the moment nobody seems to understand what the wait is for.

The first project is in Placa Major, situated just below the train station of Portbou.
The main building fronting the square, the ‘Hotel California’ and the square used to be an important social meeting point and there was plenty of shops and offices.
Currently the square has been reduced to nothing but a car park, and the building has been abandoned for many years and its interior is in a state of ruin.
The old ‘Hotel California’ however dilapidated still retains a great presence on the Placa Major.
The project’s intention is to give it a new life as an Operetta, whilst also connecting this town to an existing association of Catalonian opera theatres, called Aaos.

The second project is at the border with France.
At the end of the Spanish Civil War, in January and February of 1939, France opened its doors to some 500,000 republican exiles that walked over the hills of Portbou full of the hope of freedom. They viewed the French town of Cerbère as the beginning of a new life, yet tragically many were forced into French concentration camps where they either starved or froze to death.
Today, although abandoned as a border station, the buildings retain a great presence in this powerful landscape.
The project’s intention is to reduce the border buildings from three to the original one. This remaining building is reworked to provide a space of reflection, of memory, a space with a view to the sea. It is a testimony to the extraordinary history it has witnessed.

Laura Feroldi


Mr Mark Hayduk
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