Saturday, August 06, 2011

Majorca: Yannick and Ben Jakober Foundation: Sa Bassa Blanca – Architecture.

Photograph and copyright Manfredi Bellati

Yannick and Ben Jakober Foundation: Sa Bassa Blanca – Architecture. The Hassan Fathy building which houses the Contemporary Art Collection can be glimpsed from the wild, long and dusty track that leads to Sa Bassa Blanca and the Yannick and Ben Jakober Foundation a few kilometers south of Alcudia on the North Eastern tip of Majorca.

The dirt road. The dirt road leading up to the Museo Sa Bassa Blanca is flanked by beautiful trees and the dry fields are scattered with Carob trees.

photograph and copyright manfredi bellati

The entrance to Sa Bassa Blanca.   The outstanding feature of Sa Bassa Blanca, which houses the Comporary Art Collection of the Yannick and Ben Jakober Foundation is undoubtedly the building designed by the renowned Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy (1900-1989).   He was already 78 years old and had never built anything in Western Europe when he drew up the plans of this Hispano Moresque building, which he called a “ribat”, retaining only the outside walls of an existing farmhouse of the property. White crenellated walls, traditional vaults and domes punctuate the otherwise flat terraces of the edifice surrounding a central courtyard with gardens and fountains. “At Sa Bassa Blanca, what once was a rather ugly farmhouse has given way to a unique landmark.  It is a place where the visitor can appreciate not only the work of a great architect but also the melding of different cultures, not as mere decoration, but as an integrated whole.  It is a vision that reflects the rich history of this Mediterranean area.” A Pigeon sculpture by Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu is the focal point for photographs with visiting VIPs.


The Pots. A collection of gigantic old terracotta pots are placed at the main entrance to the Museum. 

Photograph and copyright by Manfredi Bellati

The Roof. A view from the roof of the surrounding landscape from the flat roof surface.

Photograph and copyright by Manfredi Bellati

The interior courtyard.  “The interior garden courtyard, designed by Hassan Fathy, has a number of levels.  Its features include a fishpond, and also a sunken pit (in the foreground) where people sit and watch performances in the small open-air theatre… The garden boasts fully grown trees, as well as jasmine and a Lady of the Night (Cestum Nocturnum).  The overall design of Sa Bassa Blanca, with its internal courtyard, is well suited to the Majorcan summers. It serves not only as a garden but also as the focus of the building.  It opens onto two reception areas: one traditionally called the iwan, with a number of stark chairs and low tables; the other a summer dinning area with a long refectory table.”

The tiles of the ground floor in Sa Bassa Blanca. “ The floors, too, deserve special attention. The tiles were custom made in a local kiln… The makers were two brothers, now dead, who lived and worked in adjoining houses but had not spoken to each other for thirty years.  One made only glazed tiles, the other only unglazed ones.  As both were needed for the Sa Bassa Blanca project their work came together and was interlaced in the final building.”

The windows # 1. Most windows, designed by Hassan Fathy himself, are covered by wooden lattices called “mushrabeyehs”.

The windows # 2.  The iron latticework on the arches in the patio.

The roof terrace.  On the wall a sculpture by Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu entitled Mazzocchio, 1994 it is situated on the roof terrace, which goes around the interior courtyard.
Note: one of the two domes, which form an integral part of the design of the building, the other being in the tower on the left.

 Photograph and copyright by Manfredi Bellati

The View.  A close up of the sculpture Tres Columnas on the hillside overlooking the property.

The vaulted ceiling # 1 - detail. “Among the other highlights of Sa Bassa Blanca are the “artesonados” or paneled ceilings, especially the polychrome Hispano-Moresque example from Tarazona, which dates to 1498.”


The two fountains.  “The two fountains in the courtyard, both of which appeared in Hassan Fathy’s plans, come from Granada.  One is a rare sixteenth-century fountain in white marble, while the other is probably a former baptismal font.  On Fathy’s plans the fountains were not aligned with the centre of the courtyard.  When questioned on this point the architect replied that, “only Allah is perfect”, and so the fountains were positioned just as he had envisaged.”

The Doors. “Also notable are the old paneled doors (cuarterones).”

Barbie and Ken.  Gigantic silver Barbie and Ken sculptures called Apollo and Aphrodite made by Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu grace one of the arches looking out onto the interior courtyard. They have the exact same proportions as classic Greek sculpture.

Photograph and copyright by Manfredi Bellati

The vaulted ceiling # 2. The terracotta brick vaulted ceiling in Yannick Vu’s studio.

Note: all quotes are taken from Ben Jakober’s text, Hassan Fathy and Sa Bassa Blanca in the Foundation's catalogue.

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