AZKUNA ZENTROA – 2017 Global Awards for Excellence Finalist

Azkuna Zentroa

Location: Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain
Developer: Bilbao City Council, Alhóndiga, Center of Ocio y Cultura, Bilbao Ría
Designer: Philippe Starck
Site Size: 1.48 acres

Azkuna Zentroa – formerly Alhóndiga Bilbao* – is the art, culture and leisure center located in the heart of Bilbao. Inside one of the city’s most emblematic buildings, with more than 100 years of history, lies the former municipal wine warehouse.

Its rehabilitation was commissioned to Philippe Starck in a display of creativity and ingenuity, seeking the creation of a multidisciplinary space, open to all citizens and oriented towards the integral growth of people and to the development of human relationships.

It is a new public referential center which, with its vocation of dynamism and innovation, hosts a wide and varied schedule of activities destined to the diffusion and fusion, for the first time in the same space, of all the aspects, concerns, disciplines, curiosities and hobbies that a person can have.

Azkuna Zentroa- Site Plan; Credit: Gonzalo de las Heras
Azkuna Zentroa- Rooftop Concert; Credit: José Miguel LLano
Azkuna Zentroa- Swimming pool; Credit: José Miguel LLano
Azkuna Zentroa- Auditorium; Credit: Eva Zubero

The 43,000 square meters of Azkuna Zentroa comprises of three main buildings within the existing structure, which was originally constructed in 1909 by the architect Ricardo Bastida. The façade of this modernist building was declared ‘Building of Cultural Interest’ by the Basque Government in 1998, and has since been maintained and rehabilitated. The exterior classicism contrasts with the urban, singular, innovative and sober interior designed by Philippe Starck- where life and energy are crystallized.

After decades of activity, in the late 1970s the building was closed and a variety of different remodeling projects failed. Its rehabilitation took almost 10 years and an investment of around 75 million euros. Besides recovering a historical building and a huge urban space in the city center, for several years the Indautxu neighbourhood- the real core of the city center, lacked public facilities such as a library or sports infrastructures.

Today Azkuna Zentroa opens its doors every day of the year for local citizens and foreign visitors coming to know the socio-economic and huge urban transformation the city achieved in the past 25 years, leaving behind its industrial past. It alreadycompares to the Guggenheim Museum, of this new Bilbao.

(*) On 16th March 2015 Alhóndiga Bilbao changed its name to Azkuna Zentroa. This is a tribute from the city to Mayor Iñaki Azkuna, the “emotional” architect of the new Bilbao who pushed the final project to rehabilitate the historic building and passed away in 2014. It is the acknowledgement of Azkuna’s vision of a building which had been neglected for over 30 years. To quote Iñaki Azkuna’s own words: “It will be the meeting point of Culture in Bilbao and a catalyser of co-existence in the City”.

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