ANDRÈS IZA DE LA TORRE

                         CARLOS GARMENDIA FERNÁNDEZ



In the BIA Forum (*) context held in Bilbao in September 2014, with topics related to urban regeneration, the possibility of carrying an ephemeral intervention was proposed with the aim to illustrate the regeneration concept and focus on the value of an abandoned space located in the city centre.

The chosen space was the old train station of La Naja, once the largest passenger flow in the country. It was relegated due to the subway construction and was definitely closed fifteen years ago. Since 2000 when the passage of wagons connecting the capital with the towns along the left bank of the river stopped, the station remains out of use. It is located in a privileged site, on the left bank of the river, facing the sumptuous Arriaga theatre and at the feet of the Concordia station. Nowadays it cuts off the promenade along the riverside.

One of the deepest transformations of Bilbao has been the retrieving of the river axis as the structuring space for the city, from the Marzana quay to Abandoibarra, through Uribitarte and Ripa docks and with forthcoming plans for the metropolitan axis downstream.

This ephemeral project stresses on the continuity of the river quays bringing light to the last site waiting for renewal in the city centre.

Moreover this condition of abandoned infrastructure serves to the BIA Forum as an opportunity for reflection about alternative strategies that can be addressed today for the recovery of these infrastructure spaces beyond its dismantling, about open ways of reuse, about their value in the identity of the city.

Inside the space is shown impressive with an endless perspective of concrete pillars and beams involving the two platforms and the railroad tracks, with the direct sunlight filtering through the river facade and invading the entire surface.

The people flow can easily be visualized. Only the vegetation that has grown in the tracks platform, the dust, the cobwebs and dampness of many years of forgetfulness, along with traces of marginal occupation during the last century black decades of crisis, serve as the script to the tale of the station life during its ostracism.

The architectural remains charm and the memory of those who spent hours on those platforms become the hub of the action to recover this space for fifteen days, reducing the intervention to the minimum.

It is not cleaned or painted. Neither any check for leaks is done. The mysterious ambience of the place frozen in time is kept. A corridor from a scaffold structure rests on the floor and wooden shuttering planks form a new surface. The primary purpose of this trail is to allow the viewer walk back into the past.

The access is placed at the end of the Ripa dock and the gateway functions as the extension of the river promenade. The shape and decomposition of the limits of the inserted platform combine the intentionality of the new path, the functionality of the provisional use and its compatibility with existing leaks. A gentle ramp in the darkest area is bridging the gap while almost theatrical spotlighting highlights the character of ruin of the walls. In the background, the natural light that breaks into the central space indicates the path along which the panels of an exhibition of a participating nature are placed.

Once the visitor reaches the main space, the gateway becomes a square that covers the entire available width surpassing the level of the lateral platforms. In this continuous square, except two wooden huts that support services, the furniture delimits the uses: a reading area, a resting area, a multipurpose space (to hold workshops and conferences). This scaffold platform also functions as a lookout, as a terrace where the infinite perspective of structural sequence is enjoyed at it’s finest.

When the inside experience is insufficient, the same platform expands toward the outside terrace above the river, with the same spirit of viewpoint but this time facing the Arriaga theatre.

The pathway ends where it did years ago, climbing the stairs leading to the Arenal bridge to venture into the city of urban transformation of Bilbao, a transformation that ignored these colourful and brutalists arcades where thousands of people waited hours for the arrival of the train that would take them back home.


(*) 1rst Edition of the BIA Urban Regeneration Forum “Hacia la ciudad sana / Towards Living Cities/ Hiri bizirantz …”, organized by BIA Bilbao Bizkaia Architecture platform for architectural diffusion founded in the Delegation in Biscay of the COAVN (Official Chamber of Basque Navarre Architects) held in Bilbao on September 2014