In 1951, 21-year old Canadian history buff, painter and filmmaker Rolph Blakstad received a scholarship to study painting anywhere in the world. He chose Florence, Italy and headed off on an amazing life journey that led him to the white isle. Today, alongside son Rolf he runs one of Ibiza’s most successful architectural companies, Blakstad Design Consultants. We sat down with the duo in their San Carlos design studio to talk about Ibiza past and present.
So… when did you first come to the island?
Rolph: I fell in love with the Mediterranean after my wife and I spent a summer in Capri in 1952. The tourism trade hadn’t started yet and it was absolutely beautiful. We returned to Canada for two and a half years, but missed the Mediterranean so much that we came to Ibiza in 1956 and we’ve been here ever since.
What was so special about it? Why did you stay?
Rolph: Why wouldn’t I? It was the quintessence of the Mediterranean. Peasant women looking after sheep, weaving and spinning wool in the countryside, fisherman blowing on conch shells to announce they were selling fish. It was so independent and self sufficient – people grew their own food and there was enough fish, bread and wine for good living. Of course, all of that has changed with the coming of tourists and foreigners…
So you’ve witnessed a lot of change…
Rolph: When we arrived, it was like the middle ages – the beaches were completely deserted apart from fisherman and their little coloured boats. We lived in Santa Eulalia del Río and the river was flowing all year round, there was a Roman bridge, waterfalls you could stand under and the town was bordered by orange groves. When you walked along the main street, you’d just see the aquamarine of the sea set against oranges and the only prominent building was the church on the hill. It’s hardly even possible to imagine now…
Rolf: It’s not what it used to be but change is inevitable. Ibiza in general offers the opportunity to blend. It´s a refreshing cultural mix. – having a big expat community gives the island a lot of opportunities to put itself on the map.
Tell us a bit about your family in Ibiza?
Rolph: We have a very large family now, with 13 grand children and dozens of Ibicenco and Spanish relatives aquired through marriage. My wife Mary founded the Morna international school; our eldest daughter Sandra is a painter. Sabrina, works in the administration of The Architectural Associates School of Architecture in London. Our eldest son Nial, runs the construction side of our business. Our middle son Po is married to the Spanish film actress Ángela Molina and Rolf here is our youngest.
Was it inevitable your children follow in your footsteps like Rolf?
Rolph: Well, it seems that way, yes! My father was a builder and an architect, so it seems to be a family tradition.
Rolf: Funnily enough, my eldest daughter, who is a six and a half, has started drawing plans, plumbing details and the like – but there’s no pressure.
Finally, what is your favourite thing about Ibiza?
Rolph: Work – I love my work. I originally came to Ibiza because of its´ ancient culture. We are continuing with a millennial architectural tradition.
Rolf: To me, Ibiza has always been my home, my childrens’ home and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.