What remains of the industrial Bilbao, the power of a city forged by mines and sea, which
collapsed with the crisis which affected steel as phylloxera did the vine?
My eager eyes do not see the tracks of this recent past, nevertheless they exist : glorious,
marine and metallurgical, situated less than a kilometer from the Guggenheim.
The place is called Zorrotzaurre, a narrow tongue of land, a peninsula which will
become an island like Manhattan, a transformation that will finally enclose a
chapter of urban renovation begun in Bilbao at the dawn of the 1990s.
Today, warehouses are reduced to rubble, there are only gigantic detached houses, behind
secure walls with names carved in the entrances.
I feel both hatred and love towards this city which has become a model of
development, showered with money. Urban Committees and their funds are the
big Zeus and architects the crazy mutants.
Remember… the city was one of the darkest of Spain, dirty and polluted … now people
kayak down the river. It is the “ Guggen ” effect and Mister Azkuna was even voted best
mayor in the world.
Today, the most visible construction site is the new Athletic stadium, very close to the
congress and music palace, an architectural masterpiece. On the other bank, a glass and
metal tower owned by Iberdrola, and beyond, the fairly recent cultural center of
Alhondiga, right in the heart of the historic city, an old alcohol warehouse reimagined by
Nothing is too beautiful for Bilbao: Starck, Buren, Norman Foster and then,
of course, Mister Frank O. Gehry, the Guggenheim man, whose titanium building
is the big symbol of the Bilbao revival, the day of the inauguration ( October 17th, 1997)
it was the face of the Basque Country that was changed.
Gehry is also the man behind the Marques de Riscal City of Wine, a colossal
project brought to life in the heart of their wine cellars in the little village of Elciego.
Innovation and tradition united in a single building: the oldest cellars dating from
1858 surrounded by vineyards and a luxury hotel.
Marques de Riscal is one of the oldest Rioja wineries but throughout its history the
family has always been innovating and pioneering.
Baron de Chirel is a good example. This wine first appeared in 1986 as the answer to
press complaints which accused Rioja wines of not evolving, of being stagnant.
A blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% other (Cabernet Sauvignon) a so called
“new-era” wine . Very intense, creamy, mouth filling, truffle, chocolate, mocka. A successful example of cohabitation between avant-garde (the most furious capitalism) and the memory of place.
By Viviana Vecchione, edited by Robert McIntosh