Here’s a self-guided architecture tour of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We’ve shown our favorite buildings of Santa Cruz on this map, plus a walking route.
We can start our tour with the Casa de Carta in Plaza Candelaria. Much has been written about the classical, colonial architecture of the 16th -19th centuries in Tenerife, but for that, you’ll no doubt head to La Laguna or Orotava.
Santa Cruz really takes off in the 20th century, as new neighborhoods take form, most notably in the Barrio de los Hoteles (centered on the Plaza del Pato) and Barrio Toscal.
The modernista era (1900-1929) predominates in the mansions of the Barrio de los Hoteles and all along the Ramblas. This neighborhood is protected with the title “Bien de Interés Cultural (BIC) Conjunto Histórico de Los Hoteles-Pino del Oro”.
Modernista architecture is then overtaken by rationalist architecture (1929-1939). This type of architecture can be seen far more in Tenerife than in the rest of Spain. Some buildings take the straight lines of van der Rohe, while other show the curves of Art Deco: see pictures. If you’re interested, there are great routes on this website highlighting 24 rationalist buildings in Santa Cruz.
At the end of the Ramblas is the Colegio de Arquitectos building, a great example of brutalist architecture from 1971. After that, head through Toscal to the modern buildings of Santa Cruz, mentioned in this Guardian article: TEA, the auditorium, and the Presidency of the Canaries. The modern buildings are as much about arquitect Fernando Menis (born in Santa Cruz) as about Santiago Calatrava, whose auditorium ended up at 4 times the original budget.
Finally, my personal favorite, Tanque 69: as the city reclaimed land from the refinery, citizens saved an oil tank for keepsake. In 1997, the city brought on Fernando Menis to turn the inside of the oil tank into a cultural space. He won prizes for the resulting design. As for the refinery? City Hall finally turned against it in 2015, for the most part shut off and without a stink. Let’s see what Santa Cruz does with the land when it is eventually reclaimed.
Next up in terms of urban planning? Town planners want to find the ocean again. The big hurdle was achieved in 2016 by getting the coastal road inside a tunnel. Now a pause as they wait for cash to clean up the new space over the tunnel, and eventually, to redevelop the now accessible port.
And maybe some day, Toscal will get the pedestrian street that it needs so badly.
I was surprised when my wife chose Santa Cruz as the place to live in Tenerife, but I have no doubts now. It’s my city.
The Defensa del Patrimonio Historico de Santa Cruz is a great source for more info.