The End of the “Arenal Effect”


‘Among the tourism entrepreneurs in Palma de Mallorca is known as “Arenal Effect” the negative influence for the brand “Mallorca” that causes the area of El Arenal (Playa de Palma de Mallorca).

El Arenal is very popular internationally as a low quality tourist destination, for those more interested in the combination of nightlife and the beach than in the culture or local nature’

The proposed site for the contest is one of the axes marked by the current General Plan to become a pedestrian zone and its enhancement, improving the connection of the beach with the neighbourhood in which the people of El Arenal actually lives.

The town is currently a “tourist ghetto” known for its offer of sun + beach + party, attracting low quality tourism that shows no interest in local culture and is displacing the usual inhabitants.

In the environment, there are a series of urban problems as a disused commercial centre that nevertheless presents a great potential as a container of future activities and is the link element between the tourist world and the local world.

Mass tourism is temporary (visitors arrive only in the months of good weather) and generates multiple challenges: urban, environmental, social, economic and cultural. How to continue attracting tourism and be, at the same time, sustainable and attractive for the local population? How to articulate the improvement of an urban axis with the capacity to relate tourism and the local world with the rest of the city?

OOIIO Architecture proposes to solve all those problems a battery of urban interventions that act on the different problematic city places with the target of regenerating El Arenal and transforming it from a conflictive destination of sun and beach tourism to an attractive place by its own socio-cultural offer.

Among others, these interventions are:

  • Some days a week there is a street market that attracts people from other places, we propose to praise the multiple social, cultural and economic virtues of such a market and generate infrastructures to encourage their development. The market is a great urban opportunity for the place. It is the socio-cultural event capable of combining tradition with economic profitability, local craftsmanship with tourism.
  • in the city there are large vertical dividing walls due to an unequal urban growth with the appearance of blocks of hotel buildings next to single-family homes, we encourage working with art on them proposing a series of mural contests. The theme of these murals must be elements of the local culture. The area will gradually be filled with large mural paintings, turning the neighbourhood into an open-air museum.
  • Demolish part of the commercial centre in disuse favouring the connectivity between the beach and the urban centre. Today the shopping centre is a barrier that separates the city core with its natural access to the beach. It does not work well as a focus of attraction, it is more of an obstacle.
  • To transform a parking lot into a square full of palm trees and shadows to attract users. This space is also connected to a green corridor towards the field that surrounds the city, it would be an opportunity to create here a resting area for walkers.
  • To pedestrianize the axis that connects the urban centre and the beach, relocating the parking spaces in nearby unused lots. We cannot pedestrianize the area without offering space to park the many visitors who arrive annually by car.

Jury Feedback

“The search for a way to communicate and explain the project in a different format is recognized positively, as a process from which a program and a final form will emerge. The main problems to be solved by the project are clearly explained and an open system based on the dialogue and participation of different agents is proposed giving, in a synthetic way and in a certain abstract way, proposed solutions. The most important thing is the proposal of a process “.


Who influences you graphically?

Many people that follow our projects ask us why we draw every project in a different way. We try allways to approach each project from scratch, so we do the same with the way of drawing it. For us each project has a its own way of being represented, and it basically depends on many things: the time that we have, who is the client, the specific talents of the architects on the team, if we explore this or that way before and in our experience it worked well…

So maybe we can say that the circumstances that surround the project influence us graphically.

‘The search for a way to communicate and explain the project in a different format is recognized positively, as a process from which a program and a final form will emerge’

What defined the language of the comic for the exploration of the project?

In our competition entry for the urban refurbishment of such an area like Palma de Mallorca Beach we had very clear that as architects or urbanists we will never succeed if we present a project that pop up with a final strong idea that solves everything. Urban projects involve many interests (politicians, economics, neighbours, hotels, tourists, shops, ecologists, sociologists, natural resources…) So our project MUST be a dialog process between all of them.

A comic is a perfect way to show this idea.

How did this act as a catalyst for project itself?

At the same time that the project was developed we were thinking how to tell our ideas, so the comic itself was actually a catalyst for the urban development designed, because the comic drawings were already forcing us to imagine the design process to solve all the area urban problems and what would we do if we win the competition.

How liberating or restricting is the format of the Europan Competition?

We have no doubt that Europan is one of the more open mind Competitions that you can submit to, both graphically and architectonically. You only need to see the results of the entries to discover how smart are the entries (winners and no winners) and how inspiring and rich are them graphically. The fact that Europan is a Competition for young architects is probably the key to get all this fresh result.

What were the biggest challenges?

To draw all the human figures expressing actions and ideas according with the project solutions represented on the vignettes. As architects, we are used to draw buildings and spaces, as the main character in our drawings. Here the figures were the main thing.

What were the biggest difficulties you faced when constructing the comic narrative?

We did a comic to express an urban project for the refurbishment of a specific site with particular problems. The main difficulty was to not forget that we were actually architects solving urban problems and not artists doing nice comic drawings. We needed to write a story that speaks about architecture and Urbanism but in such a way that makes sense also like a comic, easy to read.

How has this new method of representation affected how you will think of drawing and representation in the future?

We are already working in more competitions and we are not doing any new comic for the moment, because it takes extra work and it is not always easy to have enough time for it, although we can see already in our new presentations a way of organizing the information influenced by our comic experiment, following steps and picturing moments, like in a comic.

What was the effect and purpose of the use of subtle ironic hints to images as the Last Supper?

The purpose was to show the idea of sitting together many different characters with different intentions over the urban solution. All of them will try to get the maximum own benefit from the final solution and the architect will be the central character in charge of put together all those egos. We decided to use the Leonardo´s Last Supper drawing as a well-known iconic reference to express in one shot this concept. Everyone has seen before this famous picture, so using it, we have a lot of work already done.

In going back to the comments of Europan and the 'proposal of a process' -would you like to respond/expand on this?

Every project in architecture is actually a process followed to solve specific problems under a particular context that rules you to through the way to get them a solution.  We understand that an urban project is the maximum expression of this idea. Urbanism is basically a process doubt to the huge amount of energies, resources and interests involved in changing and or creating cities. An urban proposal nowadays should be a process. Maybe you don´t even have an idea, but you need to think on a process to solve the problem.


OOIIO is an international team of architects, designers and engineers engaged in finding this special “I don´t know what it is” that makes a work unique, exciting and able for transmit sensations on a way that a vulgar work will never get.

In OOIIO we know that not every construction is architecture.
We do architecture.

OOIIO creative process is completely open and random. When we start a project we never know how it will end, what will come out, that’s why we introduced throughout the design process countless stimulus and references from any kind that may improve the final design. These are usually unexpected and we find them everywhere, like in the geometry of a mineral that seems attractive, a traditional dish of the place where the project is built, the shape and colors of a vase, a tree or a graffiti that we found painted on a wall.

This constant search for poetical links to architecture through everything around us makes us look at the world with wide open eyes and helps us to get every project as the result of a unique creative process, making each OOIIO project special and standed out.