Category: Basque architecture

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Guggenheim at night. Photo by Tony Hisgett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On October 18, 1997, the at the time controversial and now emblematic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was inaugurated.

A lot of our regular readers will no doubt be familiar with the so-called Guggenheim effect in Bilbao. After a controversial start, with many critical voices raised questioning the significant Basque public investment in this flagship project, the museum has had a significant impact in putting Bilbao–and the Basque Country more broadly–on the international map. Much of this is down to architect Frank Gehry’s groundbreaking design of the building itself, which, if you catch the airport bus into Bilbao, comes into view in spectacular fashion as you enter the city proper.

Check out our special post here on the twentieth anniversary celebrations for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

 

 

July 8, 2014: Closure of the iconic Begoña Elevator in Bilbao

On July 8, 2014, at 11 pm the Begoña Elevator, an iconic feature of the late twentieth-century Bilbao cityscape, ceased to function after nearly seventy years of service.

The walkway at the top of the Begoña Elevator. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1940s, Begoña–once a separate town but incorporated by Bilbao in 1925 as part of its major growth in the twentieth century–was a neighborhood in expansion. Yet despite its geographic proximity to the city center, it remained disconnected on account of the steep hill one had to navigate between the two districts. A project was thus conceived to link Begoña to downtown Bilbao precisely at the point of what was known at the time as Bilbao Aduana train station (later San Nicolás, and currently the Zazpikaleak/Casco Viejo Euskotren-Metro Bilbao intermodal station).

Viewing area at the top of the elevator. Photo by Bachelot Pierre J-P. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Designed by architect Rafael Fontán, the biggest challenge was to insert a significant structure into an already congested cityscape. He achieved this by taking an existing building as its base and as regards the actual design of the elevator, he opted for a stark modernist structure, in contrast to the older surrounding buildings; this decision, to contrast so starkly the new structure from the vicinity, arguably ultimately contributed to creating its iconic status–at least as regards form–quickly becoming one of the city’s emblematic structures.

Begoña Elevator from Itxaropen/Esperanza Street. Photo by Zarateman. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was made out of reinforced concrete and included a walkway and enclosed vantage point over the city at the Begoña entrance, lending the structure a machine-like form in appearance. In this sense, it resembled an architectural model developed in Switzerland during the early twentieth century. When finished, it came to measure 150 feet in height and immediately stood out in the Bilbao cityscape. It was inaugurated in 1947 and served generations of bilbaínos but it began to lose customers in the 1990s, with the construction of the Bilbao metro and a competing elevator as well as other elevators and escalators that were constructed to link the city center to the hillier surrounding neighborhoods.

The structure remains in place, however, and there is much debate over what could be done with this iconic physical testament to an important part of Bilbao’s recent history.

If architecture is your thing, check out Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain, a fascinating work that examines Gehry’s buildings as a kind of narrative.

More general urban studies published by the Center include That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City by Joseba Zulaika; Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal; and Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

What’s more, Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika, is available free to download here.

 

 

February 19, 1999: Inauguration of Euskalduna Conference Centre

Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbera.

On February 19, 1999, the newly completed Euskalduna Conference Centre was inaugurated in Bilbao. Designed by architects Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios to resemble a ship under construction, because it stands on the site formerly occupied by the Euskalduna shipyard, the building won the Enric Miralles award for architecture at the 6th Spanish Architecture Biennial in 2001 and in 2003 the International Congress Palace Association declared it to be the world’s best congress center. It is without doubt one of the key emblematic sites–historical, cultural, and architectural–of Bilbao and a “must see” building for any visitor to the capital of Bizkaia.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna was a shipyard located in the heart of Bilbao that also came to specialize in the construction of rail and road vehicles. It operated between 1900 and 1988, when it closed in controversial circumstances due to downsizing. The famous “Carola” Crane, a symbol of the shipyard in its heyday, still stands and now forms part of the Ria de Bilbao Maritime Museum, which is located alongside the Euskalduna Conference Centre.

Photo by Tim Tregenza.

The Euskalduna is today home to both the city’s opera season and the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, as well as serving as a multipurpose conference and event center with a 2000-seat auditorium, a 600-seat theater, conference rooms, meeting rooms, a press room, restaurants, an exhibition hall, an a commercial gallery.

Photo by Asier Sarasua Aranberri.

Check out the Euskalduna website here.

The Center has published several books on the transformation of Bilbao (and the Basque Country in general), a story in which the Euskalduna is prominent. See, for example, Joseba Zulaika’s award-winning That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of  a City as well as Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi and Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Cross of Gorbeia 115-years-old

On Saturday, November 12, the emblematic Cross of Gorbeia, one of the most distinct features in the Basque Country, will be 115-years-old. Mount Gorbeia, straddling the border between Bizkaia and Araba, is 1,482 meters (4,862 feet) high. It remains an important symbol, especially for Bizkaians, for whom it is their highest mountain. It is equally known for the imposing metal cross that stands at the summit, measuring around 17 meters (56 feet) high.

634px-indalecio_gorbeiako_gailurrean

The third cross of Gorbeia, erected some time around 1910. Photo of Indalecio Ojanguren by Ojanguren himself, c. early-20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1899 Pope Leo XIII ordered that crosses be erected on the highest Christian mountains to herald the coming of a new century. As a consequence, a work commission was established in Zeanuri, Bizkaia, organized by the town priest, Juan Bartolomé de Alcibar, and presided over by the archpriest of Zigoitia, Araba, José María de Urratxa, to implement the pope’s orders by erecting a cross on the peak of Gorbeia. The construction project was headed by the architect Casto de Zavala y Ellacuriaga and had a budget of 50,000 pesetas. The original cross was 33 meters (108 feet) high. Delays to the project, however, mean that the cross was not installed in 1900, as originally planned, but a year later, on November 12, 1901. What’s more, the original cross only lasted a month and half, before collapsing as a result of the notoriously strong winds that are common on Gorbeia (local shepherds are reputed to have warned of this possibility from the outset). A second cross was then put up in 1903, although it, too, succumbed to gale-force winds in 1906. A third and final cross, which took much of its inspiration from the Eiffel Tower and was designed by Serapio de Goikoetxea and Alberto de Palacio y Elissague, was erected some time around 1910, this time measuring much less than the first two attempts.

640px-vitoria_-_monte_gorbea

Mount Gorbeia, as seen from Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly afterward, on October 13, 1912, following the recent creation of the Sporting Club of Bilbao, it organized a hiking excursion to the top of Gorbeia attended by 145 hardy individuals. This set in motion a tradition, that lasts to this day, for Bizkaians of all ages to make at least one visit to the emblematic summit of Gorbeia. This excursion is especially popular on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Information sourced from: http://www.deia.com/2016/11/05/bizkaia/costa/la-cruz-de-gorbea-115-anos-guiando-a-los-montaneros

Beautiful short video spotlights Basque Country

Check out this beautifully shot short video that spotlights the landscapes, cityscapes, and people of the Basque Country. In the makers’ own words, “this film is a collections of sights and sounds from our experience in the Basque Country! Enjoy the ride and go to Euskadi! It’s magic!” We couldn’t agree more!

Credits

Filmed and edited: Jeffrey Alex Attoh • instagram.com/jeffreybigdeal
Drone and timelapse: Andrea De Luca • instagram.com/ghost_grammer
Production assistant: Andrea Valotti

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

October 18, 1997 marked the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – today one of the most emblematic sites in the Basque Country.

640px-bilbao_-_guggenheim_aurore

The Guggenheim by night. Photo by PA. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hailed as a masterpiece and one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by architect Frank Gehry,  came to redefine the Basque Country as a whole and the city of Bilbao in particular: it was the “miracle” of Bilbao.

The “miracle” referred of course to Frank Gehry’s Bilbao masterpiece. Hailed as an “instant landmark,” it brought a new sense of relevance to architecture in the transformation of urban landscapes. It was the story of the architect as hero and, as the Greeks believed, of architecture as the first art—arché. Bilbao was doing for the Basques what the Sidney Opera House had done for Australia. Gehry, while complaining of being “geniused to death,” became not only the master architect, but the master artist.

These observations come from the introduction to Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here.

The Center also publishes other books on the social, cultural, and urban transformation of Bilbao and the Basque Country, for which the Guggenheim served in many respects as a springboard:

That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, by Joseba Zulaika.

Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

Irun and Hendaia commemorate bridges linking the two towns

A series of acts were held over the weekend of September 2 to 4 on and around the Avenida and Santiago/Saint-Jacques bridges that link Irun (Gipuzkoa) to Hendaia (Lapurdi). The acts were held in commemoration of both the people that used these bridges to flee the horrors of war, but also in celebration of these vital points of connection between the two towns.

On September 2 the two mayors of the respective towns took part, on the Avenida bridge (also known as the International bridge) and on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary, in an act remembering all the people who had crossed the bridge–in both directions–to flee war and save their lives.

640px-American_Prisioners_released_in_Spain,_Hendaya_-_Google_Art_Project

American prisoners who had fought as volunteers on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War released by Franco’s forces via the Avenida bridge, walking from Irun to Hendaia (1938). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On September 4, meanwhile, another act was held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the burning of Irun at the outset of he Spanish Civil War, a specific occasion on which people used the bridges en masse to escape the conflict.

DSCF0001

The Santiago/Saint-Jacques bridge today.

A plaque will be installed at some point this year on the Avenida bridge to remember all the people who crossed the bridge to save their lives.

The impact of war on ordinary people’s lives, and particularly in the intense period between the Spanish Civil War and World War II, is explored in War, Exile, Justice, and Everyday Life 1936-1946, edited by Sandra Ott.

Atharratze to join Association of Bastides

640px-LBC_Place_de_la_mairie

Town Council Square in Bastida-Arberoa/La Bastide-Clairence. Photo by Asp, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bastides are a particular urban feature of South-West France: new fortified towns built in the medieval era, between 1230 and 1350, which were located on or near sensitive border areas and which served as more robust defensive mechanisms against potential attackers.

These were planned towns, with a central square and church surrounded by a well organized street layout. People were encouraged to settle in  these new towns and cultivate the land around them with incentives such as being granted a “free” status, meaning they would no longer be considered vassals of local lords. Today, they are a special feature of the region and an important destination for architecture enthusiasts as well as visitors more generally.

Bastides64 is an association of these bastides in the département of the Atlantic Pyrenees, incorporating Iparralde. It was established to protect and promote these historic sites. To date, Bastida-Arberoa (La Bastide-Clairence in French; La Bastida de Clarença in Gascon) in Lower Navarre has been the only Basque member of the association. As Philippe Veyrin comments in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre, “Bastida (Labastide-Clairence) and Izura (Ostabat) are a case—here exceptional, though very widespread in Gascony—of towns created all of a piece to a preconceived plan. Baiona and Donibane Garazi were almost from the start fortified towns built on a key position.”

It has, however, just been announced that Atharratze (Tardets) in Zuberoa will also join as a full member in 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A panoramic view of Bastida, Araba. Photo by Imamon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, there is also a Bastida, (Labastida in Spanish) in Araba, which is also a fortified medieval town.

In his classic study The Basques, Julio Caro Baroja also discusses the history and architecture of Basque settlements.