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Air Conditioning

Suddenly, it’s getting hot.

It seems that Summer is breaking out with a vengeance. There is a Yellow alert on mainland Spain with temperatures yesterday reaching 38° C in Sevilla and Córdoba, with the forecast for 40° C over the next day or two. In Mallorca, it is not quite as severe, but temperatures reached 32° C in Sa Pobla yesterday and 30° C in Inca, with the intensity holding at these levels during the next few days.

Some of us may be tempted to switch on the air conditioning. I, for one, am not partial to such heavy-handed gadgets which in the long run may well contribute to temperatures rising even higher in years to come. I much prefer the traditional ways of the Mallorcan country folk who keep their houses cool by simply not letting the sun in. The invention which lets the air circulate inside the building and manages to keep the place cool and refreshing is known by the name of persianas (window shutters).

Perhaps an even better method was invented by the Moorish population of Spain some 800 to 1000 years ago. The Arabs used the coolness of running water to create fresh and airy conditions.

A perfect example of the old ways of creating natural air cooling with the help of water can be found at Palma International airport Son Sant Joan. PMI airport was built some 15 years ago to a modern design but, some clever architectural mind, perhaps that of Pere Nicolau Bonet, added two seemingly superfluous massive shafts at the two lateral sides of the airport’s main terminal. Inside, elevators and ramps connect four floors but, in the shafts’ centres there is a large hollow void acting as a ventilation funnel or chute which is naturally cooled by a water basin at their bottom with eight cascades of sprouting water. Wonderful. Go and have a look and see for yourself what can be done to effectively freshen the air without resorting to heavy-duty consumption of endless electrical power.

Perfect. And the beauty of it is that according to the Moors the design can be applied on any scale, large or small.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 9th, 2010. The time was 15:38:26.

3 replies »

  1. The people who sell air conditioning and run the electrical power plants would not like us to buy back the old ideas. The ideas that developed into fantastic architecture by the Moors and many other pre air con peoples of the world. The simple concept of hot air rising via an inner court yard area, like a funnel in a building. Then also adding water into the moving air, a soft breeze in made, all combined with the cooling effect of the evaporation of the water. The evaporation via a fountain at the base of the funnel, combines to both cool and move the air with little power usage. The damp air mist from the fountain requires only an electrical pump unless you get the water, under pressure, from a higher level of say a roman aquaduct. Nice ideas, all pre electric age but now lost in the modern world of electronics with plastic cases.
    Palma Airport shows the mark of a great mind, Pere Nicolau Bonet an understanding of the past has been used to good effect.
    A cool breeze in the the hot still desert – did the Moors have a word for such a breeze?

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