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Bienal Internacional de Arquitectura

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The participation of around 30,000 people confirms the success of the I Basque Country International Architecture Biennial - MUGAK

  • The public was mainly attracted by the opening-week lectures and round tables, the exhibition by RCR Arquitectes, the participation of the Architecture School of the University of the Basque Country - UPV, the exhibition "La Ciudad Que Perdimos" [The City We Lost] and both seminars on ageing and housing.
  • The Regional Minister Iñaki Arriola has announced that the next edition will expand its activities to Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz. 


Around 30,000 people attended the events of the first edition of the Basque Country International Architecture Biennial MUGAK. Iñaki Arriola, Minister for Environment, Regional Planning and Housing of the Basque Government -the institution that promoted the meeting-, Pablo García Astrain, Director for Housing and Architecture, and Pedro Astigarraga, Curator of the Biennial, met today for a preliminary assessment. They highlighted the great response of the public to the activities organised throughout the last three months.

The Biennial was opened on the 6th of November and closed last January, although several activities took place outside the official programme. A total of over 125 events were organised: lectures, exhibitions, round tables, seminars, workshops, guided tours…

In their meeting today, the organisers analysed the results. “The large number of participants in the activities, around 30,000 people, as well as the quality of the organised events confirm the success of Biennial’s first edition”, the Regional Minister of Housing claimed.

Arriola highlighted the effort and the difficulty entailed in showing the best architecture available in the world in a first Biennial show, a goal achieved in the exhibition "Creatividad Compartida" [Shared Creativity] by the winners of the Pritzker Award 2017. “Nor is it easy -he added- to gather international leading figures such as the architects Rafael Aranda or Sou Fujimoto, or to get the sculptor Cristina Iglesias to present her project for Santa Clara Island in the Biennial.” Therefore, he wanted to put in value the effort of the Housing and Architecture Directorate as well the work done by the Curator and his team during these months.

He also thanked the University of the Basque Country - UPV, the City Council of San Sebastian, the Regional Council of Gipuzkoa and “every arts and cultural entity that put their efforts in the project” for their collaboration.

Arriola explained that the design of the Biennial’s next edition will start shortly. “Although it is very early, we already have an initial idea to work on: we want to discuss the social dimension of architecture in greater depth and explore housing solutions for the future from that perspective.”

Additionally, he announced the intention of “involving the three Basque main cities in the 2019 event, so that San Sebastian strengthens its role as main headquarters of the Biennial and Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz take part in it by offering relevant activities.”  

The lectures of the opening week, from the 7th to the 10th of November, are among the most relevant milestones of the Biennial because of their high-level speakers as well as the response of the public, who in most cases filled every room available. The Miramar Palace saw the participation of first class architects such as Rafael Aranda (RCR Arquitectes, Pritzker Award 2017), Sou Fujimoto, Solano Benítez and Gloria Cabral as well as Alain Tavés and François Chastanet from France. Last January, there was also an opportunity to listen to Cristina Iglesias, who presented her art project for the lighthouse on Santa Clara Island in San Sebastian, and to the US architect Alex Anmahian, invited by Cluster Habic.

The exhibition by the studio RCR Arquitectes, "Creatividad Compartida" [Shared Creativity] was one of the most attractive proposals of MUGAK. Shown in the Royal Quarters of Miramar's ground floor (the Palace hosted another dozen of exhibitions), it captured the attention of more than 8,000 visitors over the three months of the Biennial, although it mainly opened on weekends. A large public was also drawn by the exhibition "La Ciudad Que Perdimos" [The City We Lost], curated by Áncora in the Santa Teresa Convent. It will remain open during this February. For the moment, it has already received over 4,500 visits.

Another success that tells MUGAK apart from other similar biennials is the active participation of the Architecture School of the University of the Basque Country. Its 600 students moved into the Biennial headquarters in the Miramar Palace during the opening week. They also participated in many activities; for instance, it was the very students who guided the tours of the RCR exhibition for two months. They were in the spotlight in some exhibitions as well, such as "Análisis Técnico de Construcciones Históricas" [Technical Analysis of Historic Buildings] in the Carlos Santamaría Centre and "Gipuzkoa Brut" in the Koldo Mitxelena centre.

Besides, other schools of architecture collaborated with MUGAK, as the ones in Valencia, Reus, Montpellier and Bordeaux, as well as the design centre Kunsthal in Irun and the Cinema and Video School ESCIVI in Andoain.

The Biennial has managed to expand throughout the city thanks to the collaboration of about twenty entities related to architecture, art and culture. There were many participants besides the Regional Council of Gipuzkoa, the City Council of San Sebastian and the University of the Basque Country - UPV: the association for the preservation of cultural heritage Áncora, the Peña Ganchegui Archive, the architecture culture association Atari, the Cluster Habic, the Professional Association of Basque-Navarre Architects (COAVN), the Dabadaba space, the Espacio Réflex space, the printing and design business Gráficas Michelena, the Elektra Group, the Koldo Mitxelena centre, the Cemento Rezola Museum, the international centre for contemporary culture Tabakalera, the San Telmo Museum and the art galleries Altxerri, Arteko, Ekain, Kur and Vetus Art.

Among other objectives, MUGAK intended its area of activity to go beyond the world of architecture. Therefore, it has successfully promoted relationships with other disciplines. Two of the events most welcomed by the public were the round tables with the participation of writers such as Fernando Savater, Harkaitz Cano, Bernardo Atxaga and Ramon Saizarbitoria, as well as Manuel Vicent, Igor Calzada, Josep María Montaner and Soledad Gallego-Díaz.

In the same way, there were no vacant seats for the seminar "La Casa En Una Sociedad Que Envejece" [Homes in an Ageing Society], organised by Donostia Lagunkoia on the future of housing for the elderly. That was also the case of the closing seminar "La Arquitectura De La Vivienda" [Housing Architecture].

Even children had their own programme. The workshops Maushaus organised for children stood out from all others and were filled to the brink.

All the above is reason enough to declare that the first edition of Mugak, the Basque Country International Architecture Biennial has successfully achieved remarkable acceptance and participation, thus fulfilling another main aim: bringing architecture closer to the general public.

The Programme is being prepared