On Majorca, a Wellness Retreat Whose Design Was a Family Affair


There are architects who have shaped certain places in such singular and profound ways — Luis Barragán and Mexico City, Albert Frey and Palm Springs — that it’s hard to think of one without the other. Increasingly, the same is true of Antoni Esteva and Majorca, situated some 130 miles from the Spanish mainland in the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean. Over the past five decades, Esteva, who was born on the island, has dreamed up or transformed dozens of its buildings, from the local artist Miquel Barceló’s home and atelier — which incorporates a 13th-century lookout tower — to the reimagined 18th-century farmhouse that holds the cultish country hotel Son Gener. In 2010, he embarked on a restoration of the artist Joan Miró’s former home in Palma, Majorca’s capital, reorienting the rooms so as to redirect the gaze to the garden. If there is a common thread running through his work, it’s his fondness for employing natural materials and the resulting structures’ tendency to complement, and sometimes even disappear into, the landscape.

It is perhaps unsurprising that, having grown up among such considered spaces, not to mention that of their own Antoni Esteva-designed and art-filled family home near the medieval town of Son Servera, the architect’s two children are also aesthetically inclined and respected talents in their own right. Tomeu Esteva, 48, studied architecture at London Metropolitan University and, in 2000, founded the Palma-based firm Esteva i Esteva with his father — “he’d always worked alone, but now we do certain projects together,” Tomeu says. Since then, the pair have taken their collective vision to northern India, to Portugal and to Los Angeles’s Mulholland Drive, where they will soon complete a private home with a facade of stucco painted the same shade of ecru as the surrounding earth, and a 30-foot-long living room with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors on both sides. “We try to create balance with every tool we have,” says Tomeu, “with light, materials and proportions.”

Rosa Esteva, 46, studied art and fashion in Barcelona, where she’s based, and founded Cortana, her line of sophisticated staples, such as columnar dresses of silk georgette and fitted linen-and-wool-blend pants with silk-lined pockets, 20 years ago. “I like to make garments that enhance the person but without eclipsing their personality, that are in fact a continuation of the wearer’s self,” she says of the label, which she sells out of three boutiques, all designed by Esteva i Esteva, including one in Palma’s historic center, as well as online. Clearly, she inherited her father’s taste for subtlety and earthy materials, but her work also reflects a sense of color and form gleaned from her and Tomeu’s mother, Catín Cañellas, who worked for many years as a florist and often let Rosa make little bouquets with leftover blooms. At the same time, the Esteva siblings have always had their own opinions about all things style. “And we speak up. We did and still do have big discussions, and there’s no mincing words — none of us are very diplomatic,” Tomeu says with a laugh.

One common topic of debate these past few years has been Es Racó d’Artà, Antoni’s latest venture — a new 34-room wellness retreat located on an ancient finca (estate) near the small town of Artà, on the eastern part of the island. He’d long known of the property, previously owned by a local family for generations, and had been in awe of its beauty: Nestled within a valley, its nearly 500 acres encompassed a crumbling 18th-century stone farmhouse with several outbuildings, as well as olive groves and dozens of fields. About a decade ago, when he heard a rumor that the family wanted to sell, he approached them and snapped it up. He then set about planting the land with grapevines, ancient wheat varieties and hundreds of new olive trees — and carefully renovating the main house, adding an adjacent L-shaped building of stone and glass that is the setting for the retreat’s restaurant and, out beyond the orchards, almost two dozen free-standing casitas. He also turned the stable into a meditation room. At 75, Antoni considers Es Racó a legacy project for him and for his longtime building partner, Jaume Danús. Still, he wanted his children by his side.

Tomeu designed the spa, an extension off the main structure that’s built into a slope. From ground level, it’s hidden behind an undulating wall of stone but, when viewed from the windows or pool deck above, looks like a terraced garden, with palm trees growing out of several small courtyards. “I put all of the focus on the roof, turning it into the main facade in a way,” says Tomeu, who was influenced by Moroccan desert architecture, as well as other Moorish-era buildings on the island. (From the terrace of Es Racó’s restaurant there is an uninterrupted view of the Santuario de San Salvador, a fortified Moorish citadel that’s now used as a Christian church.)

Formally involved in one of her father’s undertakings for the first time, Rosa conceived of the staff’s uniforms — linen tunics and pants in cream and beige that are meant to provide comfort and harmonize with the environment — along with the soft hemp caftans and ponchos that are available to guests and perfect for throwing on after a watsu treatment. “I also shared my opinion about many other things,” she says, raising her eyebrows with amusement. “It’s true,” says Tomeu. “I often ask her what she thinks about a color or material or combination of surfaces. I really trust her taste.” The two of them have a WhatsApp chat where they share images they find inspiring. “Yesterday, she sent me a picture of this incredible project on Minorca by Ensamble Studio, a living space they had carved out of an abandoned stone quarry,” he says.

In all that they did, the siblings tried to help make Es Racó a place that would promote health and calm, offering its guests a chance to connect with their surroundings and eat delicious and nourishing meals — the Majorcan-born chef Teresa Enseñat Forteza-Rey will use local ingredients to create an ever-changing menu of Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian dishes. From May to December, visitors can opt to stay for anywhere from three days to two weeks, choosing between a variety of wellness packages — one is focused on movement, another on meditation and medicinal herbs. In the winter months, Es Racó will host takeovers by different yoga teachers, creative types and healers, each of whom will design their own program. Tomeu’s wife, Gemma Bes, a nutritionist to the tennis star and local hero Rafael Nadal, among others, will organize several courses on healthy cooking, while Rosa is working on women-only events dedicated to creativity and art-making.

During lockdown, Antoni himself started to paint, working with a thick mixture of sand, soil and natural pigments and creating images that are like close-ups of cracked earth. Many of his canvases now hang in the finca’s public spaces and mix poetically with the rest of the artwork, most of it created by local makers. On the ground floor of the main building, which houses the reception and a series of lounges, there are abstract beehive-shaped vessels by the ceramist Jaume Roig; large-scale sculptures of joined wood, some sections as narrow as rope, by the artist Hiroshi Kitamura; and a three-dimensional work by Nicholas Woods that features a sheet of transparent vinyl pierced with nails that depict a boat. Light — both natural and artificial — is an equally important element in every room, and throughout the property are spherical ceramic lamps with dozens of holes cut into their surface that project luminous circles on the walls around them.

“Interiors should surprise you and give you a certain energy as you travel through them,” says Rosa, appearing over Zoom clad in a voile cotton top in a rich sienna hue and a light camel-colored cashmere coat of her own design. She and Tomeu are sitting under an olive tree on the restaurant’s terrace. In the distance behind them is the village of Artà, and in front of them is a cluster of citrus trees, along with a mobile of steel rods and large yellow orbs by the Majorcan artist Pere Ignasi that’s rotating in the breeze. “We’re trying to create a little universe with architecture and textiles and art — one that makes us feel in balance with nature,” she says. And, she adds, it’s especially rewarding to do that together.

www.nytimes.com 2021-04-26 21:40:17


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