A national highway runs through Fuentes de Ebro, yet the small, ordinary Spanish village rarely receives visitors. In order to draw attention to the area, Lara Almarcegui and Begoña Movellán converted the local train station, which had been abandoned for 20 years, into a free hotel for one week. “The town is not beautiful, and not the kind of village people would likely visit,” Almarcegui says. “So, I thought it would be a kind of extreme gesture to propose that people spend a week there.”
She used $400 from a small grant to renovate the concrete, two-story building, which with high ceilings and tiled flooring was an apt candidate for use as a hotel. Almacegui and Movellán painted the interior walls, brought in furniture donated by the town’s residents, installed electricity and plumbing, and advertised the repurposed station in the neighboring city of Zaragoza. Though the hotel was completely booked during the project’s run, the effort remained somewhat clandestine, since Almarcegui originally received permission from railway officials to use the station as an exhibition venue, not a residential facility. “They never would have let me create a free hotel, especially since there was no museum” backing the project, she says. “So the event was a secret among the guests. I even asked them to hide their luggage–I was so afraid.” Fuentes de Ebro residents continue to use the building as a meeting and event space.
Almarcegui lives in Rotterdam. In preparation for Hotel Fuentes de Ebro, she spent one month in Spain researching unused architectural spaces that offer potential solutions to housing and urban dilemmas. Her work often explores different methods for forming relationships to communities, usually though long-term research, interviewing residents, investigating new possibilities for aging infrastructure.