April 4, 2009

Tenerife [001] Shock and Awe

Where does a minimalist find joy in the jumble of tourist Tenerife? Suprisingly, gasps SpaceTM's Mark, absolutely everywhere

Tenerife has a reputation for the gaudy end of the travel experience. This is certainly justified. The cut-and-shut of architectural styles plastered with jumbled layers of signage turns tourist streets into a tumbling agony of colour and angles. Some areas would be a shock to the senses for even a hardened Brit-Abroad, so imagine the potential damage to the discerning eyes and nervous system of a staunch minimalist.

After the eye-rolling, gasping, tutting (and self-awareness that you are the only person wearing dark grey during the day) something life-affirming happens. Initially, everywhere is so wrong that it reinforces exactly how right you are. That anyone could do these things to a naturally stunning volcanic island makes you want to change the world that little bit harder. Indeed, instead of jumping on a jet to find the nearest John Pawson, the minimalist starts to do the exact opposite and seek out even gawdier areas to eye-roll, gasp and tut at. How right can this place prove me to be?

Then slowly (like eating chilli-peppers) each time you want to push the pain a bit further. The worse it gets the more you want and you feel the addiction start. Forget acres of white plaster and slate, look at that wall of badly printed towels!  The bad is so bad it twists and really becomes extremely good. You ache to get Martin Parr over to really do it justice.

And yes, you notice that intriguing sliver of modernist glass glinting on a distant hill; you adore that restrained surfers bar on the beach with simple decking, woven-grass seats and hand-painted box tables; you love the discreet restaurant with dark wood, white linen and modular cane furniture by Skyline... yes, here the diamonds in the dust are thrown into such sharp contrast that they become real shining gems. The good needs the bad to make it look even better. Then you can forgive the bad and it too becomes beautiful.

Then there is the real shock of a building so strong, awe inspiring and unexpected that it gives you one of the architectural experiences of your life...

I'm not sure whether Tenerife has a tourist board slogan but, if it hasn't, it should be this: Tenerife: Shock and Awe.

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