Cultural Centres in the Basque Country: Culture in mansions and factories
The Basque Country is home to numerous ancient buildings that have been transformed into cultural venues. They are public places dedicated to creation, learning, entertainment... and they invite citizens to participate and interact. This use makes it possible to renovate our important industrial and historical heritage. We shall focus on three buildings found in the Basque capitals: Montehermoso in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Centro Azkuna in Bilbao and Tabakalera in Donostia/San Sebastián. Culture at the service of the people!
The Montehermoso Cultural Centre is a Renaissance mansion from the sixteenth century located in the highest section of the Old Quarters in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Prior to its current purpose, it had been given several uses; the previous being an episcopal see. After a thorough renovation and expansion of its surface by adding the former Vitoria-Gasteiz Water Holding Tank, it opened in 1997 as a cultural centre.
It now houses exhibition rooms, multi-purpose areas for courses and workshops, a media library and documentation centre. It also features 1,588 square metres of gardens designed as a public venue with bars and restaurants where, especially in summer, musical performances are programmed.
We must note the recent opening of the “Oihaneder Euskarren Etxea” at the Montehermoso Cultural Centre, making it a meeting point for Basque culture, leisure and creativity.
The Azkuna Centre has been named as a tribute to Iñaki Azkuna, who was mayor of Bilbao for fifteen years. Formerly known as AlhondigaBilbao, this building was the city's central wine storage facility for many years. Built at the beginning of the twentieth century by Ricardo Bastida, it was abandoned in the 1970s. It opened again as a cultural centre in 2010. The designer, Philippe Starck, has retained the original walls of the Alhondiga, creating a new and modern interior: three cubic buildings supported by 120 columns made by the same number of artisans from a wide range of materials.
It is a public leisure and cultural venue that focuses on people and that is dedicated to encouraging the cultural, physical and social improvement of citizens. The interior houses an area dedicated to art and culture (exhibition rooms, spaces for festivals and other cultural activities...), a media library, an area for physical activity and another for leisure with cinemas, restaurants and a terrace.
Tabakalera is such a powerful cultural project that, even though its headquarters are still under construction, it manages a vast programme. It is one of the largest buildings in Donostia/San Sebastián. It was built in the early twentieth century in the style of ancient manufacturing plants based on four large courtyards. It ceased to operate as a tobacco factory in 2002.
From September 2015, this former tobacco factory in Donostia/San Sebastian will become an International Centre of Contemporary Culture. The purpose of this cultural centre is to encourage critical thinking, reflection and discussion on visual culture.
Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Gobierno Vasco.