Pedreres de s'Hostal
Pedreres de s'Hostal is a disused stone quarry on the island of Minorca, Spain. In 1994, the quarry saw its last stonecutters, and since then, the non-profit organization Líthica has been hard at work transforming this industrial landscape into a post-industrial heritage park.
While not yet complete, the quarry must already be quite something to experience. To enter, one has to take a deep plunge into an abyss, a descent that may or may not be reminiscent of ancient myths. Persephone's abduction? Dante's guided tour of Tartarus?
Upon reaching the bottom of the central void room, you are compressed into an insignificant atom by monolithic walls, whose patterned textures of machine incisions and impossible staircases add to a hallucinatory effect. The scale is repressive, destabilizing.
Should you regain back your bearing, there is a labyrinth of geometrically cut canyons to explore. You look up, and the eternally blue sky of the Mediterranean is framed by unnaturally straight edges, like a James Turrell skyscape, disorienting.
This is where you get lost, where even time gets sucked into dark crevices.
Or would it be more accurate to say that time is preserved here? Centuries of chiseling and sawing, the gradual subduction of the earth, slabs of bedrock carted away by generations of Minorcans: all are recorded on the rockface. Even the tools of the trade have been left to rust and decay out in the open, for instance, a sawing machine. There is even a short segment of a rail line.
To add to your disorientation, there is a reconstruction of an enclosed Medieval garden, one cloistered by vertiginous cliffs.
What on earth is a Medieval garden doing here?
Are you actually walking through the excavated remains of a Medieval city, buried long ago under volcanic ash like Pompeii, then mineralized and now in the process of extraction after its recent discovery?
Or was this whole landscape the aborted attempt at imitating the underground cities of Cappadocia or the sculpted ruins of Petra, the reason for its termination long forgotten? Now Nature is busy everywhere reclaiming its momentary lost territory. Stay here long enough and you yourself might similarly be absorbed, turned feral.
In actuality, not only has the quarry been turned into an outdoor history museum decorated with artifacts, it's been landscaped as an arboretum showcasing native Minorcan flora. In keeping with the stonecutters' tradition of cultivating orchards and vegetable gardens in disused parts of the quarry, each excavated spaces plays host to a different plant community. One quarry room, for instance, has been set aside for fruit trees. Another one contains bushes and shrubs, and in another, cultivated olive trees and aromatic plants. In one quarry, there are ponds of freshwater Minorcan plants.
Once a landfill and fated to the amnesiac wilderness, divorced from collective memory, Pedreres de s'Hostal is clearly now a hotspot of activity.
And a model for the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes everywhere.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Check it out on Google Maps here.