The unusual salt-related architecture that has been developed in Añanais the result of the exchange of cultural and human values that have beendeveloped over its more than six millennia of history.
This popular architecture does not display the rigid architecturalstyles of scholarly learning but, given its practical nature, the valley haswitnessed the coexistence of technological innovations and material testimoniesfrom different periods.
Thus, following the patterns established by experienceand tradition, the salt workers transformed their environment and,unintentionally, generated a unique, anonymous, popular and traditional styleof architecture.
With few exceptions, this salt-related architecture was not the productof skilled labour. The salt workers themselves built the structures, using whatnature provided in the area: stone, wood and clay.
Minimal resources were used seeking the maximum yield,in a totally sustainable and ecological way, applying technology withinventiveness.
The result is a humanized landscape consisting of more than fourkilometres of wooden structures that channel the salt water from the springs tothe wells and staggered terraces built with stone, wood and clay. Theseterraces support the salt pans where the salt is collected.
This meant that the structures were quite fragile and needed constantcare and maintenance. The salt farmers learned to combine basic stone wallswith wooden structures to build high-rise terraces; some of which are overeight metres high.
The springs supply the brine at the surface in anatural and continuous manner, allowing it to be used without the need fordrilling or pumping. There are a number of springs in Valle Salado and in thesurrounding area, but only four (Santa Engracia, La Hontana, El Pico andFuentearriba) can be used thanks to their permanent flow (about 2 litres persecond) and level of salinity, which is close to saturation (250 grams perlitre).
CHANNELLING THE BRINE
The salt water is transported permanently by means of gravity through a network of channels called "royos". Although many of them were originally simply ditches dug in the ground, over time they were replaced by wooden structures, usually pine.
The main distribution system starts at the spring known as Santa Engracia in a single channel which then separates into two channels at a distribution well called Partidero. The Suso channel extends along the eastern side of the valley while the Quintana channel takes the western side. Twelve parts of the brine flow through the former while thirteen parts flow through the latter. A short distance from the distribution well, at another well known as Celemín, it again divides into two channels. The one serving the east of the valley is still called Quintana while the one that runs through the central area is called Enmedio or Meadero.
The storage wells are the heart of the salt farms and filling them is the main cause of disputes between the salt workers. This is due to the limited amount of salt water that flows from the springs, the large number of existing salt-pans and the concentration of production work in a few specific months.
This explains the high number of wells that exist at the salt works (currently 848) and the need for a complicated set distribution regulations governing the use of the brine, known as the "Master Book" (Libro Maestro).
The morphology of the wells is varied, but they can be roughly divided into four types: external, the "boquera" type, heaters and the "hand filled" type.
SALT PANS OR EVAPORATION PLATAFORMS
Salt production in Añana is based on the evaporation of the water contained in the brine by natural means. Consequently, the brine is poured onto horizontal surfaces known as salt pans, the surface of which varies from twelve to twenty square metres.
The groups of pans belonging to the same owner are called farms. These adapt to the complex topography of the site, both in height and shape, resulting in convoluted shapes that occupy most of Valle Salado. There are currently over 2,000 salt pans producing salt.
The spaces beneath the salt pans are also used by thesalt workers as salt storage areas. The salt workers would store the saltproduced up to October in the said individual storage areas. Then it would betransported to the warehouses located outside the site, where it would bepackaged and sent to market.