Away From the Beach Parties, Ibiza’s Inland Villas Are All the Rave - Kanebridge News
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Away From the Beach Parties, Ibiza’s Inland Villas Are All the Rave

By SHIVANI VORA
Wed, Sep 6, 2023 9:19amGrey Clock 4 min

Demand for historic, inland homes is driving the latest housing boom in Ibiza—Spain’s party-loving island in the Mediterranean that’s better known for attracting celebrities and business tycoons to rent seaside villas or bask in their mega yachts along the coast.

Prices for renting or buying a property on the island have long been a pricey proposition, with demand high and inventory low. Since the start of the pandemic, however, this interest has grown significantly, along with prices. Waterfront properties are perennially popular and glamourised in the global press, but the residential market on the inner part of the island away from the sea has underpinned this recent spike, according to Jack Harris, a partner in the International Residential Department at the London-based firm Knight Frank.

“The coastal areas are more touristic, and as a result, they’re more transient and seasonal, with a fluctuating population that peaks in summer,” he said. “The centre of the island is a year-round destination with a variety of villages that bustle with life that include festivals, Christmas markets, art galleries, restaurants and more.”

Located off Spain’s eastern coast and one of the main Balearic islands, Ibiza may rank as the world’s most legendary party destination. It’s a culture that’s epitomised by the electronic dance music scene and nightclubs such as Pacha and Hi, where all-night bashes are the norm and tables command up to $50,000. According to Serena Cook, the founder of the luxury lifestyle company Deliciously Sorted Ibiza and a local resident, Ibiza has always been a hub for creatives.

Cook added that Ibiza’s mild winters, which see plenty of sunny days, have attracted home buyers to move there full time. People also come for the free-spirited vibe

“It’s a free-spirited place where anything goes, and there’s a melting pot of different nationalities,” she said. “In the last half-decade or so, it has gotten more and more luxury-focused.”

Booming Inland Towns

Santa Gertrudis is at the epicentre of inland living and has numerous notable restaurants and cafes as well as the international children’s school Morna International College, where transplants and locals enrol their children. Other towns include Sant Joan de Labritja and Sant Josep de sa Talaia.

In contrast to the contemporary villas typically near or on the water, these inland areas stand out for their fincas—either traditional homes dating to the 18th and 19th centuries that are constructed of mud and stone or new properties built in the classic finca style but reinterpreted for modern-day living. Harris and Cook said that the latter are hard to come by because the local government is stringent about protecting the landscape and doesn’t grant permits easily.

Fincas feature views of hills and olive trees instead of the ocean, and over the last three years, Harris said, the market for them has appreciated in the double digits.

“The advent of remote working is in large part behind this rise,” he said. “People are drawn to the serenity of the countryside, the amount of outdoor space you can get and the fact that you’re surrounded by nature.”

Given Ibiza’s relatively small size, the coast from any of these inland towns is less than a 30-minute drive away.

“If you feel like going snorkelling one day, you can choose the beach with the calmest water, and if windsurfing is what you’re after, you’re never too far from the beach with the best wind,” Harris said.

Local real estate firms also report an increase in sales of inland properties. It’s a local boom that’s defying a global slowdown that’s impacted high-end markets from London to Berlin in the face of rising interest rates and economic uncertainty.

Javier Medina, an agency manager at the real estate firm John Taylor Ibiza, said that his company has seen “soaring sales” in the past two years. “We had an increase of 30% in the first half of 2023 compared with 2022,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cook said her business “has gone through the roof.”

“We’ve jumped by 20% and sold five countryside homes last year for US$5 million or more,” she said. Inland homeowners include buyers from the U.S., especially New Yorkers and tech entrepreneurs from the West Coast, Europeans from countries such as England, France and the Netherlands. Several notable examples include the French designer Isabel Marant and the New York art gallery owner Howard Greenberg.

In following the trend, Cook herself sold her coastal home in 2021 and moved to a countryside property because she wanted more outdoor space and a garden to grow her own produce. Cook is the founder of Ibiza Preservation, a nonprofit that protects the local environment. The group recently reported that organic farming in Ibiza has jumped 20% in the last 10 years, with many inland homeowners growing their own fruits and vegetables.

Not Exactly a Bargain

A finca’s lack of sea views doesn’t mean bargain pricing, Harris said.

“With pricing high, your money shall certainly go further inland in comparison with the coast,” he said. “That said, properties historically hold their value no matter where they are.”

A countryside finca that’s in good condition and has four bedrooms, open views, a swimming pool, pool house, multiple outdoor terraces and possibly some olive trees, costs at least US$3.5 million, Harris said. Coastal properties of the same caliber are more than US$5 million and can be higher if they offer especially dramatic views.

The architecture firm Blakstad Ibiza is behind the most sought-after and priciest inland homes. Founded by Rolf Blackstad in the 1960s, it’s now run by his son, also named Rolf. The company refurbishes rundown fincas and also builds new ones, the younger Blakstad said, with prices averaging between US$6 million to US$18 million for a property.

“We had a half dozen or so projects a year pre-Covid, but now work on a dozen,” he said.

Blakstad’s fincas typically span between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet and feature sustainably sourced timber, bedrooms with outdoor showers, solar energy, large doors that open to outdoor spaces such as terraces and gardens that may blend into farmland.

As an example, Knight Frank is currently offering a renovated turnkey Blakstad-designed finca in the village of San Rafael that costs close to US$6.5 million and is set on a hillside. Surrounded by pine forests and Mediterranean plants, it has five bedrooms spread over a main and guest house, five baths, an abundance of outdoor space including a landscaped garden and a swimming pool.

“Ibiza’s parties will forever be iconic and appeal to tourists,” Harris said. “Look a little deeper, however, into the middle of the island, and you’ll discover why so many people are choosing to make it their home.”



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”