The criminal over-development of the Canary Islands – and the loss of biodiversity and social capital that followed – was financed by the same banks and speculators that our governments are now trying so desperately to save.
Given the desecration of these beautiful islands, the bankers who financed it all do not deserve to be saved. A more fitting fate would have them turned into biomass and returned as fertiliser to the land they have despoiled.
These uncharitable thoughts are prompted by my visit this week to the second Biennale of the Canary Islands Its theme is “Silencio” – but it took me a while to get into this spirit on arrival at Tenerife’s northern aiport: builders were cutting through marble using unmuffled saws, and a massively over-amplified PA system further jangled the nerves.
Away from the un-silent din of Arrivals, the scope of the biennial is impressive. A 200-page catalogue lists dozens of events to do with architecture, art and landscape design. Many excellent and charming projects have been developed as modest interventions.
But taken in total, the attitude (in writing) of the professionals is dispiriting. There are endless riffs of the kind, “the vertiginous pace of development/consumption” – but no self-criticism by designers that their profession has played an important role in all this this ecocidal development. (I do not exclude myself from the guilty, having flown in-and-out in too short a time).
The biennial aspires to chart a new design course for the islands – but one would pay more respectful attention to these proposals if they were preceded by the occasional *mea culpa*.
Just as films don’t get made without a script, urban development doesn’t happen without a “design vision” to inflame the lust of investors.
[ The Canary Islands are not unique in this. During the now-dead boom decades, many illustrious names in design were iimplicated in awful projects. One Dubai property developer teamed up with Giorgio Armani, for example, to build a US$43 billion luxury development on two islands – Bhudal and Bhuddo, off Karachi – that government officials described as being ‘deserted’. But the livelihoods of 500,000 fishermen and their families – indigenous people who have been living on the islands for centuries – will be destroyed if the development goes ahead ].