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Contemporary architecture of Bermeo

The quality of Bermeo's contemporary architecture is not very common in the Biscay area, thanks to the exceptional generation of Bermean architects: Teodoro Anasagasti, Pedro Ispizua and Fernando Arzadun, who are among the best professionals of their time in Basque and European architecture. It is possible to make a tour of the main dominant stylistic trends in the first half of the 20th century, analyzing the fifteen selected examples.

1. Psychiatric hospital

Severino Achúcarro, 1893-190


This hospital is one of the culminating works of contemporary hospital architecture in the Basque Country and it is among the most remarkable in Spain.

The architect Achúcarro executed the order in a brilliant eclectic style, which perfectly met the needs of hospital architecture. The solution was the choice of brick because its simplicity and low cost corresponded perfectly to the two fundamental requirements of a healthcare building : rationality and tight construction budget. Eclecticism manifests itself in the use of brick with a plastic use of great beauty, marked by two influences: classicism for the ornamentation of hollows, eaves, transoms, the entrance railing and chimneys, and neo-medievalism at the top of the façade walls and gable dormers.

Typically, the pioneering introduction of the pavilion model into contemporary Basque architecture is also very remarkable.

2. Casino

Severino Achucarro, 1893-1900


Headquarters building of the "Bermean Society" built in 1894. This work by Severino Achucarro with the appearance of a French mansion, is considered within the current of eclecticism.. 

As a result of the floods in 1983, its interior and part of the facades collapsed. 

Although it was later rebuilt, it is regrettable that some valuable paintings by such important firms as Ignacio Zuloaga were lost.

3. Municipal cementery

Anastasio Arguinzoniz, 1917

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That of Bermeo is the last of the remarkable necropolises built in Biscay since the end of the 19th century, like those of Bilbao, Getxo or Portugalete. The façade has an eclectic classic design with neo-medieval touches of austere treatment and without ornaments. The jewel is the chapel with a magnificent quality of execution, delicate eclectic in a neo-Palladian style. This cemetery has an exceptional set of burials in two styles:

- Eclectics: Telletxea (1908), Uriarte, Echevarria (1924) and García.

- Art Deco: Elejebarrieta and Artaza (1928).

4. Villa Eustasia

Teodoro de Videchea, 1917

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This villa is a very decisive building because there are very few examples of single-family dwellings within a company that remain in the contemporary architecture of the Basque Country. This house was commissioned by José Garavilla to be built on the premises of his factory, Conservas Garavilla S.A. The factory was demolished in 2004.

Videchea's project is a very personal interpretation of eclecticism, made from the sum of two different references:

- Classicists with hollow moldings, stone balustrade and entrance gate surrounded by cut stone.

- English at bay windows, steep roofs and half-timbering.

A distant modernist influence is also evident in the iron of the balconies and the closing railing.

This house has another value to emphasize, the preservation of its original interior decoration.


5. Building

Teodoro Anasagasti, 1908

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The architect Anasagasti, born in Bermeo, is one of the most recognized figures in contemporary Spanish architecture for his remarkable architecture and his theoretical contribution as a teacher.

At Bermeo, he did an exceptional modernist job with a great personality. This building on Erremedio Kalea is a shining example of his particular modernist interpretation of the Viennese style. The singularity is revealed in the emphasis on formal purification and in the elegant decorative repertoire, flat as a solution to respect the rigor of the form.

The resources used are as follows: bright colors, smooth and straight moldings in the hollows, pillars with circular patterns and balconies with elaborate and elegant circular shapes.

The house underwent a reform around 1930 to replace the wooden bay windows with the current masonry and transform the attic into a dwelling, which required increasing the hollows. This reform, with its art deco style, was perfectly adapted to the Viennese spirit of the house.

6. Nautical school

Teodoro Anasagasti, 1917


The architect Anasagasti returned to the option of the local, once the gold mine of modernism was finished. His vision of neo-Basque is not the usual one to reproduce singular elements of traditional architectures, but he will understand their essence, that is to say their constructive reason. This translates into a horizontal building of clean construction with large windows in harmony with the functionality of the school, which refers to the local the exposed masonry, dovetailed roofs, buttress and the layout of an angular tower.

Art Deco

7. “Casa del Niño” (Kindergarten house)

Ricardo de Bastida, 1929


The kindergarten house is one of the best works of art deco in contemporary architecture in the Basque Country. It is a building with impressive shapes that is animated by the emphasis on geometrization, the mixture of different volumes and the use of subtle ornamentation: delicate chromatism that combines white and green and railing with a successful design characterized by the enhancement of geometric shapes. The interiors are very clean and refined, a modern formulation.

8. Chapel of the Sacred Heart

Pedro Ispizua, 1930-1940

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This project is a very decisive proposition for religious architecture because there are very few examples of the application of this modern register in Basque, Spanish and European architecture. The construction of the architect Ispizua is brilliant and extremely attractive. The singular element is the tower, which has been arranged in advance, with a Cubist approach with a clear decor influence and painted white to accentuate its renovation status. The decorative repertoire is also revealed in the decoration of the noble façade, the tiles which articulate the cross, the cut plates and the non-historic badges. The sculpture of the Sacred Heart which surmounts the tower tends to cubism, as evidenced by the geometric treatment of the human figure.

This chapel has lost the ornamentation of its Art Deco interior because a few years ago it was transformed into a sports hall.


9. Chalet Kikunbera 

Fernando Arzadun, 1930


The Kikunbera chalet is very transcendent because it is one of the rare buildings of Basque and Spanish architecture that modernity is applied to single-family homes.

The architect Arzadun built a house-boat, an idea strongly influenced by the mechanisation of Modern movement, on a steep slope with wide views of the port of Bermeo. The definitive notes are: offset profiles, masts, portholes, a watchtower to see the sea and an open terrace deck, which is completed with a curved floating body protected by a curved bar railing, as the prow of a boat.

The singularity of this villa was greatly altered with the 2004 reform, due to the fact that the single-family distribution was modified to have three houses and that the original elements (carpentry, hollow bars and balconies, etc.) have been replaced by reproductions of the originals.

10. Batzoki

Pedro Ispizua, 1932

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The Batzoki is a key work of Basque, Spanish and European rationalist architecture because there are very few preserved examples of modern style political seats.

The architect Ispizua applied an expressionist rationalism of great plastic strength and an impressive presence. To achieve this, he used the curved chamfer treatment and the accentuation of the angle with the arrangement of a stolen body, in order to create an iconic image. The other aspects to be highlighted are: the contrast of horizontality and verticality, the large horizontal openings, the curved bars on the ledges, the flat roof as a garden terrace and the cantilevered arrangement of the belvederes, floors and staircase bodies, to reinforce the expressionist condition of the project.

11. Building

Emilio Apraiz, 1934


The architect Apraiz, in this building on Intxausti Street, made a successful proposal for expressionist rationalism. The singular note is the treatment of the angle between Intxausti and Arresi streets with a curvilinear shape, reminiscent of the prow of a boat.

Other notes of modernity are the removal of ornamentation, the mastery of continuous rows of hollows, cantilevered floors, railings in round tubes and portholes.

The houses have a successful modern distribution, a double corridor orientation and all the rooms have ventilation and direct street lighting.

Post - war rationalism

12. Guilt of San Pedro 

Fernando Arzadun, 1939

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Rationalism continued in Bermeo with exceptional works by Fernando Arzadun, Pedro Ispizua and Emilio Apraiz. The guilt is a very important work for Bermeo because it articulates its maritime facade in a brilliant way. The architect Arzadun correctly applied the rationalism of post-war construction, unrefined because of its late state. The aspects to emphasize are: a bare volume without ornaments, painted in white, rows of continuous hollows and round tube bars.

13. Conservas Ormaza

Pedro Ispizua, 1942


Conservas Ormaza is one of the most decisive works in the Basque and Spanish architecture of post-war rationalism.

The strength of Ispizua's execution rested on two aspects:

- A brilliant compositional articulation to facilitate its integration in the street, made with the arrangement of two different twin bodies, the one on the left for offices and houses and the one on the right for the factory.

- Excellent rationalist reading. The factory building was designed as a simple abstract volume with a flat roof articulated by rows of horizontal hollows, and that of the houses as an expressionist volume, which is evident in its impressive tower. Other aspects to emphasize are: the brick slab, the balcony with round tube bars and three signs of the Ormaza brand for their avant-garde graphic design.

During a recent intervention, the factory was demolished, with the exception of the main facade, located in Askatasun bidea street.

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