22 Jun, 2010 @ 11:15
3 mins read

Spain’s restoration master

SINCE the age of 18 Monolo Sanchez Ortiz has had a close fascination with historic buildings.

Now, after 40 years of working in the same building company, he has had countless experience renovating them.

From Jerez’s Royal Riding School to the Alcazaba of Estepa, and from the Iglesia de San Francisco in Velez Malaga to the historic tower of the San Bernardo church in Sevilla, he has restored the lot.

From complete overhauls to tarting up the fascades, his company Sanor – which he took over from his father 20 years ago – is one of only 30 small companies in Andalucia entitled to undertake such work.

With what is known as ‘K7’ status, the prize-winning company, based in Osuna, has been able to pitch for and win over 60 prestigious projects around the region.

So many of these have been of, what is known as, ‘patrimonio’ status, that the company has recently released a glossy 550-page coffee table book on its achievements to date.

But despite all this, Monolo, 57, is a modest, softly-spoken man and anything but the usual stereotype of a bruising building boss.

“I have a deep fascination on what makes old buildings tick,” he explains, over coffee at the majestic Palacio Marquez de la Gomera, now a hotel, which his company bought and renovated a decade ago, in Osuna.

“There is something about their ancient detail that I love and we have always made a point of conserving absolutely everything possible in any project.”

This is completely clear when you see the impressive scale drawings that the building boss personally makes in advance of each job undertaken.

Painstakingly drafted, he includes every last detail and insists that his team maintain every single part.

“It is often very hard work, takes considerably longer and costs more,” he explains. “But the end result ensures that it is definitely worth it.”

You can certainly see this love for detail at the most recent project he is undertaking in his home town of Osuna.

The enormous project in Calle Carmen is over 2,500m in size and will end up with ten beautiful, state-of-the-art homes and apartments, each with their own private garage, in the heart of one of Andalucia’s most ornamental towns.

It is also preserving every bit of detail from an ancient pillar, probably from Roman times, the old doorways, roofs and rejas.

“We have protected the facade, refitted the window bars and cleaned up an old religious fresco made from azulejos from Triana,” explains Monolo, whose three children and brother also work in the company.

Costing over four million euros, the development is meant to give a flavour of a convent. “While the homeowners will be sharing the public spaces, each will have their own private outside spaces which are being carefully split up and divided with lattice woodwork,” explains Monolo, who has also boned up on the building’s history.

The spacious development itself dates back to 1750 and was once owned by a family from the Ruhr area in Germany.

It was built around the time that the town was centrally planned by Carlos III, the powerful, but austere monarch, famous for his simplistic and oversized palace at El Escorial, near Madrid.

The project is just around the corner from the street, calle San Pedro, which is often credited to have the most ornamental buildings in Europe.

“This is an area rich in history and the development is right in the heart of the best part of town,” explains Monolo.

There is no doubting Osuna’s importance. This stunning gem of a town sits in the heart of the so-called Campina region, which was in Roman times, one of the most important in the empire.

Between the key cities of Sevilla and Cordoba, Urson, as it was known, was well connected and there was great wealth made here from olive oil in particular.

While off the beaten track, it has superb connections being just two minutes from the main A45 motorway and is in easy reach of the key cities of Malaga, Sevilla and Cordoba.

Best of all, it is a largely undiscovered gem where, as yet, there are extremely few expat Britons living.

“It maintains its mystique and excitement for anyone looking to discover a hot, hip new place to invest,” concludes Monolo, who, surprise, surprise, is already looking at his next project around the corner, another 2000m2 palace.

Two bedroom apartments in the Calle Carmen development start at 189,000 euros. Email [email protected] or call 954811486 for more details.

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

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