The Zorrotzaurre project is the latest large operation towards urban regeneration launched in Bilbao. It represents a complete and sustainable plan to recover what is now a degraded area, in order to transform it into a new district; well connected to the city centre, with convenient housing developments, zones for non-polluting companies, numerous social and cultural facilities, and extensive areas for public relaxation.

The project´s Master Plan was designed by architect Zaha Hadid, and it contemplated the complete opening of the Channel of Deusto, and the consequent transformation of the Zorrotzaurre peninsula into an island. This means that Zorrotzaurre is today a key element in the transformation of Bilbao. The radical opening of the historic Channel is meant to establish for the future island its complete integration in the everyday life of the metropolitan Bilbao.

The open areas are grouped around the Channel, with wide promenades along both banks, and a 40.000 m² linear park occupying the central part of the island.

Description of the project

The landscaping proposal was the winner of the competition of ideas for the design of the open spaces in the Zorrotzaurre district.

It was born of the analysis of the site and the search of solutions for the area´s needs. It is focused on the future, while considering at the same time the history of the place, and its present and future context as a vital instrument for the transformation of Bilbao.

The jury considered that the most important and appreciated aspect of the proposal was the conceptual clarity of its common thread: the relation of all its spaces with the water. Also, the idea of strengthening formal differences between both banks, as a recognition of their very different characteristics and dimensions.

For instance, along the right riverside the project recreates the old concept of a towpath. Or, on the island, a series of different spaces are created, related to the water and to each other, and proportionally endowed with green, sitting, and playing areas.

The resulting spaces are interlinked and integrated in the rich surroundings of the Ría and the Channel, their water neighbours, and in the everyday life of Bilbao.

The continuity of the open spaces between both banks of the Channel has been inspired by the old farming and land property traces of the area.

One can imagine that the Channel has just flooded the land, without erasing its old lines, its old image.

The agricultural, industrial, o property traces are the ones who create the project, in order to synthesize the old memory of the land in these new spaces for living and playing. The memory of the shipyards, the memory of the San Ignacio, Deusto and Sarriko inhabitants.

The Channel is treated as an element that unites both banks, instead of separating them.

The water invites communication.

The duality between the right and the left bank of the Channel is reflected, among other things, in the different treatments of the riverside.

The linear geometry is strengthened by means of reproducing the traditional image of the Ría de Bilbao docks.

Along the right bank the design respects a longitudinal approach, with the image of today´s docks: the bollards, the crane rails, the concrete floors, the grasses plantations, the recovery of the towpath…The connection with the neighbouring districts is prioritized: the integration with Deusto, Sarriko and San Ignacio is favoured with new operations like the Elorrieta playa or the San Ignacio plaza.

On this bank the old towpath is recreated, insisting on the pedestrian continuity that goes from the Botika Vieja gardens to the sea. This continuity is again strengthened by the paths and the gardens that are linked to the Channel all the way from the Botika Vieja gardens to the San Ignacio playa, and have also a bikeway along the new towpath.

All this is based on the site, integrating and re-interpretating the industrial remains (bollards, cranes and rails, floorings with slag-concrete, etc.) in the new structure of the park, and taking advantage of the excellent South-Southwest orientation in order to create an urban beach by the Ría.

Special elements

The Elorrieta stairways or steps enable the passer-by to touch the water, descend down to the sheet of water, and spend the time contemplating the ebb and flow of tides. It is a very attractive area, full of activity.

The San Ignacio plaza is one of the most succesful public areas. It is an open space with children playing facilities, which are protected by tall pergolas. These consist of very large planes, suspended in the air by two or three pillars. They remind us of the past dockyard cranes.

The plaza descends down to the dock level by means of sinuous and planted steps, reflecting the waves of the water.

The climbing wall has been built using the existing retaining wall of the street that is on a higher level. It is made up of triangles, resulting in an excellent surface for climbing exercise.

The whole project is full of surprising features for the citizen, not unlike the elements in the Baroque gardens.

Architecture and Landscape: G&C arquitectos and JDVDP architectes

Project location: Bilbao, Spain.

Design year: 2012-2013

Year Built: 2019-2020


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