[By Luis Ruiz in Málaga, Spain]
The world was much different when Librería Proteo was founded, back in 1969. A time of political effervescence was about to start in Spain and the backroom of a bookstore was a propitious place to meet and discuss freely about politics.
Nowadays, it is a milestone for a local independent bookstore to reach half a century. Part of its success is that all its managers have always considered it much more than a place to sell books. All the contrary, they have tried to be involved in the cultural life of the city and to act as a discussion forum, retaining that distictive spirit it showed when it was born. As Paco Puche, its founder, is also an ingeneer strongly involved in environmental activism and an acclaimed expert in the issue of asbestos, it is not surprising that when some years ago they planned to refurbish the aging building, the criteria of using sustainable techniques and materials and renewable energies were the main objectives of the architectural project; the solar panels protruding above the tile roof is only the most visible part of all. It became thus a remarkable example of how to channel a sensible and responsible project on existing structures, therefore making the intervention win a prize of the Association of Architects in 2005.
Although a green, young hearth is beating inside this building, the outer skin is that of a 120 years-old structure, carefully preserved and maintained. Its four storeys house the different sections of the shop that, in fact, occupies the whole plot. The attic is a delighful space to which the wooden trusses of the original roof give a strong character; it is where conferences, literary gatherings and book presentations are frequently held. The ground floor also hides a surprise, a fragment of the medieval wall of the city that had remained unnoticed behind other elements for centuries and that surfaced during the works.
These days, a long banner hangs all through the facade of Librería Proteo, proudly proclaiming its 50th birthday. Let us cheer and wish them at least 50 years more of green awareness and life as an independent bookstore.