The districts of Txurdínaga and Otxarkoaga are located in the peripheral areas of the city of Bilbao. These districts grew during the post-war period when a large number of dwellings for workers were built on the slopes of the mountains that surround the city, characterized by insufficient urban services and infrastructures. As a result of this disorderly growth, the rocky embankment on Jesús Galíndez Avenue became an isolated piece of land within the city and, until our project, it divided the city physically and socially.
At a time when major improvements are being made in the urban infrastructures in the center of the city, the Bilbao City Council has also undertaken a number of projects on the outskirts of the city in order to:
- Improve the conditions of the urban space of a number of different outlying areas.
- Eliminate physical barriers and improve accessibility to these areas, which are almost always located on steep slopes.
- Eliminate social barriers and improve the conditions of these areas in order to bring them up to the level of urban quality of the center of the city.
Our work, consisting of the restoration of the embankment on Jesús Galíndez Avenue, must be framed within this effort. Prior to our project, the site consisted of a rocky embankment with a difference in level of 18 meters and stability problems that caused continuous landslides. It also created a physical barrier between two districts connected only by a small, poorly maintained metal stairway. Finally, it was also a social barrier, isolating the district of Otxarkoaga, with its severe integration problems, from the rest of the city.
The aim of the project is to consolidate the embankment and recover this derelict area, which acts like a physical barrier and disintegrating element in the city. To achieve this goal, the project shapes the embankment by using sloped planes of different materials, which reveal their strange topography to the city.
The triangular planes are formed by different materials: the existing rock; vegetation of different colors; concrete in those areas which required consolidation; and light defining their silhouette at night.
The project creates and connects areas between the top and bottom levels to lessen the impact of the embankment as a physical barrier in the city, as well as create a horizontal viewing platform to take advantage of the height of this area of the city. All the elements in the project are part of this recreated topography and part of a single fold: the stairways, the sitting areas, and the public toilets.
Cut in the rock by means of planes of different materials, a gently sloping stairway joins the two levels of this district. It is used by large numbers of pedestrians who choose this as an alternative path instead of the much longer existing routes that run around the embankment.
Following the embankment project, we were commissioned to develop the Pau Casals Square next to the embankment project and create a children’s play area over a former electricity substation. For this second project, we once again used triangular planes. In the children’s playing area, the planes are soft: grass, rubber, and flowers. The area also features built-in slides. The old substation is now part of the topography wrapped in a fold of wooden slabs.
In the Pau Casals Square, the folds wrap a retaining wall and generate a space defined by gentle slopes where formerly there had been a crossroads. There are planting planes between the existing trees in the old central reserve, as well as planes of colored concrete and planes of water to sit next to.
A former rocky embankment that represented a barrier in the city is now a connecting element for sitting and public use. Furthermore, it has become a landscaping element that has improved the quality of the surrounding urban space.
Facts and Figures
Author: IDOM Group
Client: Bilbao City Council
Location: Jesús Galíndez Avenue and Pau Casals Avenue, Bilbao
Site Area: 11,000 m²
Heads of Landscape Design: Ana Morón Hernández and César Azcárate Gómez
Collaborating Architects: Carlos Guimaraes and Xabier Aparicio Ortega
Financial Studies: Ana María Puente Villares, Elena Varillas del Río, and Javier Durán Ruiz de Gaona
Cost: Javier Durán Ruiz de Gaona
Civil Works: Javier Durán Ruiz de Gaona
Lighting Consultant: Antón Amann (ALS Lighting)
Water: Javier Durán Ruiz de Gaona
Electricity: Alvaro Gutiérrez Cabello
Site Supervision: Ana María Puente Villares and Elena Varillas del Río
Photography: Aitor Ortiz