Bilbao arena and sports center by ACXT

The new multiuse center resolves a complex program through a treelike branching of program.

The site for the Bilbao's new arena is the Miribilla neighborhood, in a park on ancient iron mines adjacent to the old part of town. This very compact and hilly area (just 200 by 46 meters) is an ideal position for such an intensively public structure, realised by ACXT .

The limestone rocks that stick out between the banks of trees in the park gave architects the key to resolve the complex functional and circulation program, which simultaneously could include game-day sports use, use of sports courts by the public, access to the arena by players and officials, access to another area for a potential restaurant with a view, and a sports center with a separate entrance, as well as parking for all of these spaces.

The architects addressed this multi-use programming by dividing the building in two. The Arena enclosure at the top houses the ticket area and entrance away from the neighborhood to avoid the excessive noise of the audience of Bilbao Basket.

Natural metaphors were touchstones of design: the Bilbao Arena was designed like a tree, whose pillars brace the elements of the structure's metal façade of painted steel sheets in various colors, construct an air-permeable surface that hides all the machinery for climate control. The sports center was designed more like a rock, with precast, textured concrete panels colored like the gray limestone of the surrounding area. A hollow in the "rock" opens up the three areas of the sports center—access to parking, gym and swimming pool—to communicate with each other visually, in cascading stages. And the arboreal mass of the Bilbao Arena, covered in green panels, juts out over the rock.

The ringlike corridors of the Arena convey the solution-oriented approach to the budget and site constraints of the project, designed with the kind permeable galvanized steel mesh normally used for the containment of sloped roads. Thus the space of the corridors is open to the outdoor environment, requires no ventilation or air conditioning and increasing fire evacuation safety.
Bilbao Arena by ACXT. Photo <a href="http://www.inigobujedo.com " target="_blanK">Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre</a>
Bilbao Arena by ACXT. Photo Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre
The strategy of permeability is event evident in he bathrooms, with perforated cladding that ensures privacy while providing natural ventilation without external HVAC equipment. Inside the pavilion are perforated corrugated panels, galvanized or lacquered, varying according to the area. Acoustic-friendly enclosures achieve good performance internally while absorbing the clamor of the PA systems.

In one corner of the Bilbao Arena in the highest level, analogous to the tree's leaves, provide for hospitality, accessed by two lifts independent of the rest of the communication systems, enabling operation whenever needed. A generous balcony terrace is sited behind the veneer, which also hides the HVAC systems, enabling views of the city by simply removing a few "leaves."

The sports center contains a pool, gym and management office divided by glass partitions, with the aim of making the building safe for users without dark corridors, and within visual access by staff: everything is within line of sight.

Everything inside the sports center is coated with an absorbent fiberboard green foam. A large skylight in the corner of the pool area, introduces a cast of natural light tinged green, as if seen under ponds or streams or caves.
Bilbao Arena by ACXT. Photo <a href="http://www.inigobujedo.com " target="_blanK">Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre</a>
Bilbao Arena by ACXT. Photo Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre
Project Architect: Javier Pérez Uribarri (ACXT) y Nicolás Espinosa Barrientos (ACXT)
Site supervisors: Javier Pérez Uribarri, Nicolás Espinosa, Ziortza Bardeci, Joseba Andoni Aguirre, Miquel García y Daniel Gutierrez
Client: Azpiegiturak (Diputación Foral de Bizkaia)
Project team: Arquitectura – Leyre de Lecea, Ricardo Moutinho, Xabier Aparicio, Roberto Aparicio, Leticia Paschetta, Jose M. Cavallero, Nuno Miguel Lobo, Ziortza Bardeci, Virginia Canales; Ingeniería (IDOM): Fco. Javier Ruiz de Prada, Arrate Atxalandobaso, Javier Atutxa, Gorka Uria, Francisco García, Francisco Javier Gómez, Iker Velasco, Xabier Rekakoetxeta, Romina Gonzalez, Mireia Campmany, Miquel García, Unai Medina, Francisco José Sánchez, Jon Zubiaurre, Amaia Lastra, Rafael Pérez, Arturo Cabo, Oscar Malo; L&M Ingenierik
Constructor: UTE POLIDEPORTIVO (CYCASA OHL)
Surface: 30.808 m2
Project year: 2006
Construction: 2007-2010
The ringlike corridors of the Arena convey the solution-oriented approach to the budget and site constraints of the project, designed with the kind permeable galvanized steel mesh normally used for the containment of sloped roads.
Bilbao Arena by ACXT. Photo <a href="http://www.inigobujedo.com " target="_blanK">Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre</a>
Bilbao Arena by ACXT. Photo Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre

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