Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall
Opening in 1999, the Euskalduna Conference Centre was erected on the same spot as the shipyard, Astilleros Euskalduna, built ships for close to a century. Despite being located rather close to the Guggenheim Museum, the Conference Centre is an emblematic building in Bilbao in its own right, with its own distinct identity.
The architecture of the Euskalduna Conference Centre is a reminder of the industrial dynamism of a not so distant past. Thus, architects Federico SORIANO and Dolores PALACIOS were inspired to conceive the project as a two sided ship, reminiscent of a ship’s hull: one side seems to lean out toward the River imitates a ship built of corten iron, allowing a thin layer of rust to form; on the side facing the city, glass, aluminium and stone offer a less aggressive appearance.
Inside, however, one finds the jewel of the Euskalduna, the auditorium. Seating 2,000 people, it was designed by the Catalonian specialist in architectural acoustics Higini ARAU.
Although initial investment for the Euskalduna Conference Centre was in excess of €80 million, accounts currently show a surplus, and it is no surprise, as recognition for this superb architectural statement has come in the form of esteemed and prestigious awards both nationally and internationally: the Enric Miralles Award at the VI Biennial of Spanish Architecture in 2001; the Apex Award for the World’s Best Congress Centre in 2003; and in 2004, the Best Conference Centre in Spain awarded by the Spanish Federation of Professional Conference Organisers.
Furthermore, the Euskalduna has been enlarged on the adjacent plot of land where the public square is presently located in front of the Abandoibarra Promenade entrance, between the road and the pond on one side. This extension adds another 2,000 sq. m. to the Euskalduna Conference Centre, increasing capacity by accommodating another 400 people.
Connected to the main building, its open-plan will allow conferences and parallel events, as well as large scale banquets of up to 1,500 guests held simultaneously. The addition is covered by a glass and steel roof. In the words of the architect, the glints and reflections will give the visitor the impression of “diving into the river.”