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Salt-related architecture

The unusual salt-related architecture that has been developed in Añana is the result of the exchange of cultural and human values ​​that have been developed over its more than six millennia of history.

This popular architecture does not display the rigid styles of the architect masters but, given its practical nature, the valley has witnessed the coexistence of technological innovations and material testimonies from different periods.

Thus, following the patterns established by experience and tradition, salt workers transformed their environment and, unintentionally, generated a unique, anonymous, popular and traditional style of architecture.

With few exceptions, this salt-related architecture was not the product of skilled labour. The salt workers themselves built the structures, using what nature provided in the area: stone, wood and clay.

Minimal resources were used seeking the maximum efficiency, in a totally sustainable and ecological way, applying technology with inventiveness.

The result is a humanized landscape consisting of more than four kilometres of wooden structures that channel the salt water from the springs to wells and staggered terraces built with stone, wood and clay. These terraces support the salt pans where it is collected.

This meant that the structures were quite fragile and needed constant care and maintenance. The salt farmers learned to combine basic stone walls with wooden structures to build high-rise terraces; some of which are over eight metres high.

SPRINGS

The springs supply the brine toward the surface in a natural and continuous way, allowing it to be used without drilling or pumping. There are many springs in Valle Salado and in the surrounding area, but only four (Santa Engracia, La Hontana, El Pico and Fuentearriba) can be used thanks to their constant flow (about 2 litres per second) and level of salinity, which is close to saturation (250 grams per litre).

CHANNELLING THE BRINE

The salt water is transported permanently by means of gravity through a network of channels called "royos". Although many of them were originally simply ditches dug in the ground, over time they were replaced by wooden structures, usually emptied pine trunks.

The main distribution system starts at the spring known as Santa Engracia in a single channel which then separates into two channels at a distribution well called Partidero. The Suso channel extends along the eastern side of the valley while the Quintana channel takes the western side. Twelve parts of the brine flow through the first one while thirteen parts flow through the second one. At a short distance from the distribution well, another one known as Celemín, is again divided into two channels. The one serving the east of the valley is still called Quintana while the one that runs through the central area is called En medio or Meadero.

BRINE WELLS

The storage wells are the heart of the salt farms. Filling them was the main cause of disputes between the salt workers. This is due to the limited amount of salt water that flows from the springs, the large number of existing salt-pans and the concentration of production work in some specific months.

This explains the high number of wells that exist at the salt works (currently 848) and the need for a regulation to distribute the use of the brine, known as the "Master Book" (Libro Maestro).

The morphology of the wells is varied, but they can be simply divided into four types: external, "boquera" type, heaters and "hand filled" type.

SALT PANS OR EVAPORATION PLATAFORMS

Salt production in Añana is based on the evaporation of the brine water by natural means. Consequently, the brine is poured onto horizontal surfaces known as salt pans, which size varies from twelve to twenty square metres.

A group of pans belonging to the same owner is called farm. This adapts to the complex topography of the site, both in height and shape, resulting in convoluted shapes that occupies most of Valle Salado. There are currently over 2,000 salt pans producing salt.

STORAGE

The spaces beneath the salt pans are also used by the salt workers as salt storage areas. In  these areas it is stored the salt produced from May up to October. Then it is transported to the warehouses located outside the site, where it would be packaged and sent to the market.

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