Heralding a major cultural center, the Abandoibarra master plan reimagines a former industrial site

Bilbao, Spain

Now a major cultural center 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 rest of the city. The master plan provides a framework for the area’s reinvention as a cultural district and tourist destination.  

The Bilbao waterfront before urban renewal in the mid-1980s.
The Abandoibarra waterfront after urban renewal and the Torre Iberdrola addition to the site.

Connecting the historic city to the river’s edge 

The master plan weaves the new development into the historic 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. Through careful urban planning, Abandoibarra is now an integral part of the city through an extension of the city grid and new connections to preexisting green space; a linear park links the 19th century Doña Casilda Park to the river’s edge with a long promenade winding around the museum and concert hall, Abandoibarra’s two cultural focal points. 

Welcoming, pedestrian friendly spaces 

Addressing a 6-meter drop separating the street from the river, a smooth sloping street comfortably accommodates pedestrians and encourages walking throughout the development. The pedestrian edge of the river has two levels, with the lower level providing walking spaces alongside the river, while a parallel walkway on the second tier serves as a more formal promenade. Public transit through a new light rail connects the Guggenheim Museum and the Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall. 

The walkway is lined with large streetlights designed to recall the scale of the cranes found in the former port. 

More About the Project

Principal Collaborators

  • Architect of Record: Aguinaga y Asociados
  • Landscape Architecture: Balmori Associates

Project Information

  • Location: Bilbao, Spain
  • Client: Bilbao Ria 2000
  • Size: 74 acres / 30 hectares
  • Firm Role: Master Planner