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Old January 28th, 2016, 06:41 PM   #1
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BILBAO | Urban renewal

Hello all. So I start this thread in order to showcase a bit the efforts of urban renewal in the city of Bilbao (Basque Country), in particular the cases of Abandoibarra (the famous Guggenheim area) and Ametzola, both semi-completed, and the Zorrotzaurre project, which is the next major stage of urban renewal in the city and that is currently on early stages of construction.

First, some background.

The city of Bilbao is located in the Basque province of Biscay and since the late 18th century it had been the subject of some deep, aggresive industrialisation. Bilbao's strategic situation as a natural port within the Bilbao estuary, the location of important mines in most of the mountains surrounding the city and the position of the city at the end of the Ibaizabal river (the Ibaizabal valley concentrated during the 19th century most of the iron-forging industries of Biscay) made the city become the main industrial hub of the Basque Country and one of the most important industrial centers of the northern Iberian peninsula.

However this came with some consequences, namely pollution and poor urbanism. The city had its main port facilities, main freight railway stations and main ship-building industries right in the middle of the city (where they had originally developed), next to the old town and the residential neighbourhoods.

Bilbao in the mid-20th century:

The port of Bilbao in the early 20th century, the city hall in the background:

The main portuary facilities and ship-building factories were located in the city center (picture from the 1980s):

The river Nervion-Ibaizabal (or simply river Bilbao) had a dark brownish colour at all times and at best, which could go to light brown or even greenish at times:

The mines, just crossing the river from the old town:

Starting the late 1980s, different proposals for a complete urban renewal of the industrial areas of Bilbao arised, some of them propelled by the Basque industrial crisis of the late 80s early 90s. In 1992 the Bilbao Ría 2000 public limited company arised. It was established with the only goal to plan and manage the urban renewal of the city. The urban renewal involved the cleaning of the river, as well as the relocation of the portuary facilities.

I will be providing pictures and info about past and current renewal projects in the following posts.
Zazpi Euskal Herriek bat egin dezagun,
guztiok beti beti gauden gu euskaldun
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Old January 28th, 2016, 06:48 PM   #2
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This is perhaps the most internationally recognised project or urban renewal that has taken place in the city, and was led by Bilbao Ría 2000. The project involved the replacement of the industrial quarters in the Abandoibarra district (in various stages of degradation). Several ship-building industries existed within this area, as well as the main freight railway station of the city. Trains and ships with cargo were frequent inhabitants of Abandoibarra.

Portuary facilities and train station:

Freight station:
image hosted on flickr

The renewal of this area started with the contract agreed with the Guggenheim Foundation to establish a Guggenheim Museum in the area. It was a big risk and it was financiallly undertook by the Basque Government. The Abandoibarra project intended to replace the whole industrial quarters with parks, museums, office buildings, university facilities and residential buildings:

One of the very first projects to begin construction was the Guggenheim Museum, which actually began operating when the industrial quarters were still active.

Guggenheim Museum under construction, notice the freight railway station in the background, still active:

Museum, shortly after its completion:

The Guggenhem Museum was finished in 1997, but it would take almost two more decades to complete the whole renewal of the district. Although it is almost completed today, there is still some ongoing work.

Final render of the Abandoibarra project:

Before and after comparisons:

Abandoibarra today

Today, Abandoibarra is one of the most vibrant areas of Bilbao in what refers to commerce, hostelry and tourism. The latter is very important, as the Guggenheim in particular but Abandoibarra in general have become a highlight of the city, attracting millions every year.

Guggenheim Museum

Euskalduna Palace Hall

Bridge Zubizuri

Iberdrola Tower, Plaza Euskadi, residential buildings and university facilities:

Abandoibarra riverfront

The old train station has been replaced by parks and a friendly tramway:

This is the result of about 20 years of works, but it still not finished. Some buildings (residential mostly) are still on the works.

Following posts will refer to Ameztola and Miribilla (the two other finished urban renewal projects) and Zorrotzaurre, the next "big" one currently underway.
Zazpi Euskal Herriek bat egin dezagun,
guztiok beti beti gauden gu euskaldun

JMGA196, erbse, AbidM, TowerVerre:), teles448 and 4 others liked this post

Last edited by Metred; January 28th, 2016 at 07:22 PM.
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Old February 1st, 2016, 12:02 AM   #3
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Ametzola is one of the neighbourhoods of the Errekalde district of Bilbao (southwest). Similarly to Abandoibarra, Ametzola was a predominantly industrial district dominated by a massive station for freight rail. The depots for Iberian-gauge and narrow-gauge trains were located in this area.

This is what Ametzola looked like in the mid 90s:

The public society Bilbao Ría 2000 decided to undertake the urban renewal of this area more or less at the same time as Abandoibarra, so both operations took place more or less simultaneously. The project for the urban renewal of Ametzola included:
  • Dismantlement of the freight rail station and depots.
  • Covering of the rail tracks and the construction of a new passanger station for the commuter-rail services Cercanías and Feve as part of the Southern Solution for the urban railways in Bilbao.
  • Creation of the "Ametzola Park".
  • New residential areas.

Once the depots were demolished, the project began with the construction of the residential buildings and the park. The covering of the rail tracks was left for a second phase. The next photo is from the late 90s early 2000s:

Around the year 2002, after six years on works:

The rail tracks were not fully covered:

Final comparison:

Ametzola today:

Ametzola 03 by MAS Studio CHICAGO, en Flickr

Renewed buildings:

Cooperativa de viviendas Glas Eraikuntza en Ametzola by Marta Miret, en Flickr

Renders for new residential buildings that will be constructed there:

Underground railway station:

Zazpi Euskal Herriek bat egin dezagun,
guztiok beti beti gauden gu euskaldun

Last edited by Metred; May 29th, 2016 at 08:37 PM.
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Old February 1st, 2016, 12:29 AM   #4
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Fantastic urban transformation
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Old February 8th, 2016, 02:53 PM   #5
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Very nice transformation : nice done!
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Old February 8th, 2016, 03:20 PM   #6
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A perfect example of urban renewal!!!
Que envidia (sana) me dais los de Bilbao, y encima sin endeudar la ciudad. Enhorabuena y a seguir en ese camino!!

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Old February 8th, 2016, 03:23 PM   #7
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wow wow wow
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Old May 26th, 2016, 02:41 PM   #8
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Felicidades, Bilbao!
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Old July 31st, 2016, 05:14 PM   #9
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Alright, so the city hall has recently presented a series of aproved projects that will be starting development in the upcoming months, I will be presenting some of them as more information becomes available.


Elorrieta (Basque for [place with] thorns) is the name of the northern end of the neighbourhood of San Inazio, in the Deusto district of the city, located next to the river. Currently it hosts mostly industrial pavilions, some no longer used, as well as the Bilbobus (urban bus) depot and some residential buildings of recent development. The image below shows how the area looks today, we can see main industrial areas, the new residential buildings at the right of the picture and also the Metro Bilbao rail tracks next to the hillside.

At street level we can see the nature of the area: no pavements and mostly populated by vehicles, it certainly is not a people-friendly environment:

The City Hall has presented the following project, which is part of the recently aproved plan for urban redevelopment and regeneration of key city areas. The plan involves:
  • The recuperation of the riverside, currently occupied by a road, creating a pedestrian friendly environment next to the river with green areas.
  • Traffic would be diverted creating a new road next to the hillside and the Metro Blbao rail tracks.
  • Replacement of the industrial areas with new residential buildings (use reclassification).
  • A new park behind the residential buildings and over the underground rail tracks in the east, this area is currently unoccupied.
  • A new vertical lift-type moveable pedestrian bridge that will connect the neighbourhood with the area of Zorrotza (that will also undergo a renewal) at the same time allowing for river traffic.
  • New public spaces: green areas and open swimming pools.

Zazpi Euskal Herriek bat egin dezagun,
guztiok beti beti gauden gu euskaldun

Last edited by Metred; August 5th, 2016 at 11:59 AM.
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Old February 22nd, 2017, 10:31 PM   #10
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Any updates on Elorrieta?
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Old February 28th, 2017, 07:46 PM   #11
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Bilbao has done extremely well in creating clean, modern spaces for its citizens.
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Old March 8th, 2017, 06:32 AM   #12
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很特别 很整齐的规划
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Old May 9th, 2017, 02:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by urizzato View Post
Any updates on Elorrieta?
Work has not yet begun as far as I know. The Elorrieta renewal is part of an integrated urban renewal plan that involves many areas across the city, this area may not be in the highest priority, but according to the plan construction should start in the short-term.


Olabeaga is the name of a small riverside neighbourhood located squeezed between the San Mames football stadium and the Nervión river, in the Basurtu-Zorrotza district of Bilbao. Despite the size and magnitude of the urban renovations that have taken place in close proximities of Olabeaga during the last three decades, the neighbourhood itself has not benefited from any of them due to its isolated location. Thus, Olabeaga still projects the image of post-industrial deterioration that some time back was commonplace all across the city.

Located mostly on a hillside, with the San Mames stadium and the motorway entrances on one side and the river on the other, it currently hosts a series of residential buildings and abandoned or semi-abandoned industrial pavilions. The neighbourhood is also traversed by railtracks of the inter-urban rail system Cercanías, which has a quite degraded station on the neighbourhood.

At street level we can see narrow streets usually without pavement, and deteriorated buildings:

Many of the former industrial buildings have been abandoned and have been walled up to avoid illegal occupations:

The area around the train station (building in the left side of the photo) also show strong signs of deterioration:

This neighbourhood has been selected as an area of opportunity and will be subject to major renovations within the following years according to the new urban plan released last year by the City Hall. The specific plan for Olabeaga involves:
  • Tunnelling of the railtracks through the neighbourhood. The railtracks currently enter Olabega from central Bilbao via a tunnel and then traverse the neighbourhood in open air route by the hillside. The plan involves extending the initial tunnel through the hillside, diverting the current path and removing the railtracks as a physical barrier.
  • The space gained from the removal of the railtracks will be replaced by medium intensity avenue that will connect the higher and lower parts of the neighbourhood between each other and will central Bilbao, improving the neigbourhood's accessibility and ending the isolation of the neighbourhood.
  • The new avenue will divert traffic away from the riverside, which will be adapted for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • A new train station will be built in the lower area of the neighbourhood, which has already been subject to some urban renewal projects and houses most of the residential buildings of the area.
  • There are two contemplated options for the recovered land at both sides of the new avenue; either commercial/offices/business buildngs or a continuation of residential areas.
  • A new pedestrian bridge will be built connecting the central area of the neighbourhood with Zorrotzaurre, another area currently subject of renovation.
  • Two new parks will be constructed alongside linear-type green areas.
  • The hillside is currently hosts a big cement wall (atop of which the railtracks are located). There will be a return to the natural situation by removing this wall and replacing it with a forested hillside.

Current situation:

After the project:

Zazpi Euskal Herriek bat egin dezagun,
guztiok beti beti gauden gu euskaldun

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Last edited by Metred; May 9th, 2017 at 04:08 PM.
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