Abandoibarra Master Plan

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Bilbao, Spain
74 acres / 30 hectares
1997

Now a major cultural center best known for the Guggenheim Museum, Abandoibarra is the former industrial center of Bilbao. When the city’s port was relocated, there was an opportunity to reconnect Abandoibarra and the river Nervión to the rest of the city. This master plan — a collaboration between Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Aguinaga y Asociados and Balmori Associates — provides a framework for the district’s reinvention as a cultural center and tourist destination. The plan weaves the new development into the old city, while increasing the overall amount of green open space. Two thirds of the master plan area is dedicated to parks and open spaces, making Abandoibarra the most pedestrian-friendly and green area of Bilbao.

Objectives for the plan included resolving the 6-meter (20-foot) drop separating the street from the river and enabling a smooth flow of vehicular traffic while encouraging walking and public transportation. To slow down vehicles, a main high-speed roadway became a boulevard with ample pedestrian crossings. A new light rail connects the Guggenheim Museum and the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall with the rest of the city. The rail line runs on a width of green lawn to give continuity to the greenspace.

The plan makes Abandoibarra an integral part of the city by extending the city grid to the area and by adding new green spaces that link to existing ones. A linear park links the 19th century Doña Casilda Park with the river’s edge. The plan creates a long promenade beginning at the old park, passing the museum and concert hall, Abandoibarra’s two cultural focal points.

The large drop from the street to the river was corrected by creating a smooth sloping street that comfortably accommodates pedestrians. The pedestrian edge of the river has two levels: The lower level allows pedestrians to walk near the water. A parallel walkway on the second tier is a more formal promenade. Large streetlights along the walkway recall the scale of the cranes found in the old port.

The plan includes buildings with a variety of functions. New buildings are required to match the height of the buildings on the Ensanche, the major thoroughfare. While new structures must be in harmony with the city, their design is expected to reflect their own time, not to mimic existing buildings.