Just over 50 years ago, the village of San Carlos was nothing but a collection of dirt roads leading into almond groves, farmland and untamed pine forest. Nowadays, this quaint pueblo in the northern corner of the Santa Eulalia region is known as an emblematic example of village life yet the whitewashed apartment buildings dotted around the village ring road are all modern, as are the boutiques, restaurants and ice cream parlours. Up until the late 1980s, there was little in San Carlos besides the church, the enclosed cemetery, the bank, the bodega, two houses and the famous Bar Anita.
Construction of the church was ordered by Bishop Abas y Lasierra in 1785 and was completed just before the end of the 18th century. Before then, the 80-odd farming families in the area had to make their way on foot or in horse and cart to worship in Santa Eulalia. Around 70 years after the completion of the church, Josep Noguera Rosselló set up a dry goods store on the corner opposite the cemetery. Passed down from generation to generation, it slowly transformed into a restaurant, bar and place to collect mail and make phone calls. Bar Anita is one of the oldest continuous businesses in Ibiza and remains a beloved hub for both locals and tourists. It’s a miracle that no one has been clipped by a passing car or truck taking the too-sharp turn that passes precariously close to the outside tables.
In 1978, the parish commissioned Rolph Blakstad to construct a plaza where congregants could gather before and after services. A 16-year-old Nial Blakstad helped his father build the water feature, replica cistern (often mistaken for an original) and forecourt. The original design did not include the fence surrounding the rectangular pool, which was added later to deter hippies from washing their feet in the water. The older Blakstad children went to the local school, which back then consisted of two rooms and a curriculum that included picking green almonds to bring back to the teacher. By the time the youngest, Rolf, was ready for school – it had grown somewhat but still retained an antiquated pedagogy that eventually influenced Mary Blakstad to found the Morna Valley School (now Morna International College) but that’s a different story. This story is about a continuing legacy.
San Carlos has been undergoing a transformation over recent years with the goal being a total pedestrianisation of the village. The next phase of this long-term project is the construction of a proper town square and in a moment of serendipitous beauty, Blakstad Design Consultants and Architects have once again been commissioned to complete the work. “It’s magical to be involved in the redesign,” says Rolf Blakstad. “I remember my father at home hand-carving the lion head spout for the pond. I could never have imagined being in this position now, to help continue the evolution of San Carlos and decide on how the village will function.”
The water feature will be removed, long ago becoming unsafe, but Rolph senior’s replica cistern will stay. The patch of grass adjacent to the church will be fitted with picnic tables and the playground amplified to include a space for very little children and another for their older siblings, while their parents and grandparents will enjoy the petanque pitch. The centrepiece that unites the design and indeed the village is the plaza. It has been conceived to accommodate the history of the village and as a place where the San Carlos Day festivities can be celebrated in spacious comfort with special significance given to the annual traditional dance, the Ball Pages.
Smooth cobbled pavers radiate outwards from a semi-circular area. A large yet simple mosaic is layered into the stone. It’s a stylised version of the flower of life, a symbol seen etched in ochre in Ibiza’s oldest wells and in sacred places across Phoenicia and all the way back to Ancient Egypt. “We positioned the mosaic as a centre point for the dancers,” says Rolf. “You see the symbol on their castanets, it’s a powerful connector to the island’s ancestors.” Rolph senior would no doubt approve, as will the wider community, that his legacy is continued.
Tiered seating encircles the space, providing maximum vantage points for onlookers and an ingenious system of removable sunshades will cover the whole area in summer, providing respite from the harsh midday heat. Sadly, due to disease, olive trees can no longer be planted in the area, but this setback spurred Rolf to add yet another layer of history to the project. Well before pine trees overtook the land, Ibiza was covered in majestic oak trees. The strong wood favoured by house builders soon saw these beautiful trees become extinct. “Oak is the true traditional tree of Ibiza,” says Rolf. “We’re returning the space to the real roots of the island.” The trees will grow through generations, providing shade across decades and even centuries.
The dusty car park alongside the cemetery will be tidied up and concealed with hedges and a further underground car park will be built nearby, allowing for the streets of San Carlos to be left car-free, clean and safe. Finally, Anita’s – where the Blakstad family still have a post box – will get the outdoor seating it deserves. The project heralds a new era for the village, building a future based on its history and creating space for a multi-generational community to thrive.