Cuento street and the Cormelana crossing

There was a cartoon by the Galician illustrator Fernando Quesada placeholder image in which the impact of regulations on architecture was clairvoyantly reflected. The image in question showed two houses separated by a half-height brick wall. In one of the plots there was a tree, tall and twisted, which paradoxically pushed the upper part of its trunk into the neighbor’s house, appearing to be part of the second home. In the foreground there were two figures, one of them the owner of one of the houses and the other questioning him: ‘E how are you? How am I doing or fighting? ‘

In architecture, regulations are a layer that is rarely talked about when trying to describe the atmosphere and quality of a work.. However, it is something that has been present since the genesis of the project, in the head of the designer. No architect escapes certain figures that are constantly repeated when defining a space, such as that a corridor must be at least 90 centimeters wide, or that in the living room of a new house it must be possible inscribe a rectangle with side 3.30 m parallel to the window.

‘In every home there will be at least one longer room. The minimum useful area of ​​said room will be that indicated in table 1 and in its plan it must admit the inscription of a square of 3.30 m on each side in the manner established in section IA2.2. ‘ Galician Habitability Regulations. DECREE 29/2010, of March 4, 2010

“Chispas da Roda” by Fernando Quesada
Image via AbeBooks, com

But regulations affect architecture at many scales. Although, in many occasions irregularities are appreciated, at different scales. While large-scale urban is often associated with crimes such as corruption or influence peddling, small-scale regulatory irregularities are often answered with more mundane arguments. Insurrection to regulations on a small scale usually appears in single-family homes or small buildings in the city belonging to a single owner.

The purpose of this ‘creative interpretation’ of the regulations or directly his absence of reading, it is usually the advantage of the owner or client. Sometimes it is a matter of scratching a few meters built to a plot, in others hiding one more height, some of them are innocuous in the urban organism and, either go unnoticed or the services in charge of verifying compliance determine that it is not something relevant, or that in reality it is not an illegality. Other, Nevertheless, irreversibly alter urban morphology, without knowing why their construction was allowed. Perhaps because then there were no regulations in the affected area, perhaps because the work had been articulated through some morally reprehensible underground intention.

Illegal architectures that have passed through time

It is surprising how the history of architecture is full of irregularities that, nevertheless, they have managed to avoid certain norms. The historical distance allows to justify some examples that without a doubt today, would be completely reprehensible. One such example is the Trulli of the population of Alberobello and by extension of the southeastern part of the Apulia region. These unique constructions, the teals or trulliThey used precisely illegality as a constructive argument.

Trulli or “trulli” in Alberobello (Italy)
(Source: Shuttestock)

A trullo was a shelter with a circular plan, organized in two floors culminating in a conical roof supported by a key. It was the laborers who went to work who built them, since the Acquaviva (Counts of Conversano) who administered that territory allowed them to settle in some peripheral lands to the fields. But, by virtue of the a grammar of the barons of the kingdom of Naples (15th century), the law prevented them from building houses without paying tribute, something completely unfeasible compared to the wage they received that barely allowed them to eat and buy basic goods for the day to day. Therefore, they could use a territory, but they couldn’t take shelter in an area where winter and summer are very harsh. A) Yes, day laborers took the initiative to build dry stone shelters (without having mortar between the joints) very elementary, that could collapse in a matter of minutes when you ripped the key from the deck. Yes, there was rumors of the arrival to the town of some inspector of the kingdom, the structure became only a mountain of stones, while the laborers denied the existence of such a settlement. Today these illegal constructions are a World Heritage Site and became the origin of the town of Alberobello (16th century).

Obviously, this is a specific example, and it does not justify illegality, as laws, perspectives, social structure, constructive materiality, and so many other things have changed since then. But there is an aspect of these that is interesting for the contemporary perspective and that is the singular morphology that these outlaw constructions have defined in the urban structure of Alberobello.

Drawing of the trullos or “trulli”, by Nuria Prieto

In A Coruña there are two streets that, although they do not house manifestly illegal constructions, take their name from certain irregularities that took place many decades ago and that today have been diluted in urban dynamics. Calle Cuento and Plaza Cormellana hide two stories built by the popular imagination of the city, whose justification may or may not be true, although some documents support it, as well as the memory of those who inhabit them.

The Street Story

The fictitious sale of a building gave it its name as “La Casa del Cuento”, which turned the street into Calle Cuento.
Photo: Nuria Prieto

” Ultimately, a story moves on that plane of man where life and the written expression of that life wage a fraternal battle, if the term may be permitted; and the result of that battle is the story itself, a living synthesis as well as a synthesized life, something like a tremor of water inside a crystal, a transience in a permanence ”. Julio Cortázar on the stories

The street that closes the Plaza de Montealto on one of its sides (between Avenida de Hércules and Calle Forcarey), and that bears this unique name, does not seem to harbor anything special. The name of the street seems to come from popular tradition, which gave it the name Calle Cuento. Yes OK, on many occasions it is said that, in the street, the neighbors met on good weather days to chat, there is another more interesting version. And it is that, according to the street file, When the area began to be developed, the owner of one of the lands that led to it claimed ownership because a builder had decided to start building there. The building in question that already had two floors was the subject of a fictitious sale in which its owner did not participate. A confusing situation, and not without doubts that seems to be covered with illegality, which is why people started calling the little building ‘La Casa del Cuento’ and by extension the street became Calle del Cuento according to Alfonso García López.

View of Cuento Street
(Photo: Nuria Prieto)

La Cormelana

In the same way Cormelana square (and the nearby crossing) takes its name from popular tradition. Yes Mid-nineteenth century it was called by this name. It was said that a woman from Corme practiced prostitution in this place. Something plausible considering the character of this small area of ​​the Pescadería neighborhood at that time. La Cormelana must have been a very popular woman at that time, perhaps partly because of his profession, his character or some singular reason that has been lost in time. Illegal or not, the activity that the Cormelana carried out in this area, like so many other women to survive, gave name to the area, an appellation that has passed through time until today.

The activity of that woman from Corme gave its name to the area until today
Photo: Nuria Prieto


The ways in which the city consolidates its morphology are so diverse that it is sometimes difficult to determine, from a contemporary point of view, how they have achieved their current image. The usual thing is to consider the urban analysis in historical, functional, topographic, typological, linguistic or aesthetic terms, and only at the end of a global reading, when it only remains to change the scale and carefully study the small details, do some testimonies appear of the popular culture.

In a detailed analysis of the image of the city, the memory aspects typical of popular stories are not reliable in the first place, since the ‘broken telephone’ that constitutes oral tradition may have transformed many data. However, as Colonel Hans Landa, a character in the movie ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) played by Christoph Waltz, said: ‘”I love rumors! Facts can be misleading; rumors, true or false, are very revealing.”. Something that can be applied to the urban history of the city, perhaps there are certain or false facts, but, in any case, knowing them can be very revealing.

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