Savia Nueva a collaborative grouping comprising Studio Engleback, Biodiversity by Design and Vita XXI, was commissioned by Arnaiz Consultores SL in 2008 to review the landscape and ecological consequences of a proposed tourist development for 60 000 people in Murcia. The site of 2,128 hectares of undeveloped coast, consists of part-degraded natural scrub (maquia) and intensive agricultural fields, and is already one of the most arid places in Spain. The brief for the area had to deal with the lack of water, very low precipitation, summer storms (erosion+floods), high insolation, very high temperatures, soil salinization and a coast unsuitable for bathing.
The development site is also surrounded by two LIC (European Protected Sites) to the north and the south, another LIC on the mountains that surrounds the site to the west and a marine LIC all along the coast containing the best example of Posidonia oceanica (marine praire) in Murcia. As a consequence, the site contains several protected species of plants and animals unique to the area. We felt that the standard tourist development approach promoted by Arnaiz to date was wrong, particularly in the face of the effects of climate change, a changing energy economy, reliance on desalinated water, and a proposed clientele who were now better informed about the environment and challenged by the ‘credit crunch’.