Azkuna Zentroa, Bilbao, Spain

Philippe Starck in collaboration with Thibaut Mathieu[
Date Built
Opened to the public in stages between 18 May and 24 October 2010
Arriquíbar Plaza, 4, 48010 Bilbo

Azkuna Zentroa is a multi-purpose venue in central Bilbao created within a building designed by Ricardo Bastida and completed in 1909.  The centre's website reflects on that history.  "...In 1905 a very young Ricardo Bastida was commissioned to build a new wine exchange in Ensanche de Albia quarter, Bilbao, and he outlined a large functional advanced industrial building in a modernist style. When the activity of this building was transferred to the new wine exchange in Recalde in the 1970s, it was left waiting to be put to a new use. Today the 43,000 square metres of Azkuna Zentroa arise over the old wine warehouse."

Today within this old building you will find a multiplex cinema, fitness centre, library, showrooms, an auditorium, shops, and a restaurant.  The architect of this transformation was Phillipe Starke.  "Discovering an object or place designed by Philippe Starck, is to enter a world of intense imagination, fertile surprises and phantasmagoria. This creator, designer and unusual polymorphic architect, has been constantly present untarnished by conventionalisms for over 30 years in our daily belongings, creating “good” rather than beautiful objects and iconic destinations which take the members of his «cultural tribe» to other places beyond themselves, and above all, he takes them to the best."

"The 43 pillars sustaining the 3 buildings of Azkuna Zentroa symbolise the millions of columns, and infinity of cultures, architectures, wars and religions through which man has passed throughout history. Lorenzo Baraldi, the Italian stage designer, has materialised Philippe Starck’s cinematographic vision of this space in his own particular interpretation of the place. Entering the Azkuna Zentroa Atrium of Cultures is to immerse oneself in the journey through the cultural."

"The choice of materials to manufacture the 43 columns is also a journey through the history of the raw materials. First the oldest were chosen, such as marble, brick, wood and bronze. Then, by way of testimony to modern times, cement and steel. And finally, two elements used since ancient times were proposed, yet are virtually unknown, namely Lecce stone and glazed terracotta."

Looking up you might be excused for thinking you are seeing a skylight but in fact you are seeing the glass bottom of a rooftop swimming pool.