The identity of a people
We conceived the intervention to reinforce the existing built and cultural heritage of Sestao, a town primarily linked to iron and steel production. The site lies between the city’s edge and the large industrial infrastructures of Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, a Spanish metallurgy manufacturing company. It’s a place of striking contrasts, where decaying small-scale housing blocks dialogue with the giant metal frame of the nearby industry.
The new intervention directly references the city’s steel industry and aims to reactivate its industrial heritage. Furthermore, through raw metal structures, the creation of new spaces for meeting and reinforcing the collective identity is sought, which promote activity that stimulates the social and productive relationships of the neighbors.
Urban Space Reactivation
Sestao is the hinge between two realities. First, the morphology of Sestao, with the urban center located on top of a hill. Second, the industrial zone extended on the lower side next to the estuary has generated both a physical and social disconnection between the inhabitants of each area.
The intervention is part of the rehabilitation plan for the Txabarri neighborhood (lower area), with Plaza El Sol being the most remarkable reference of public space in this degraded area. The morphology of the square, divided into three different levels (+0m, +5m, +10m), makes this space work as a hinge and transition, weaving the public space between the lower and upper areas.
The connection between levels finds its most significant point in the frontón, a large wall used for playing Basque Pelota. At this point, the frontón wall works as a retaining wall between elevation +0m and elevation +10m, opening up direct visuals across levels. The covering of the frontón and its multifunctional character has been the starting point to design a strategy capable of structuring the entire public space and being a catalyst for creating a new meeting place between different people.
Foundations for a meeting place
The intervention is divided into 3 fundamental lines of work:
- Covering the frontón and creating the pergola. The structure of the roof of the frontón and the pergola introduces the industrial aesthetics characteristic of the limits of Sestao in the public space to contribute to the construction of collective memory. However, the gesture of the trusses arises from the need to eliminate the pillars in the square due to the openness required by the multifunctionality of today's frontón in cities.
A stepped roof has been built (which respects the visuals from the upper street) based on three supported metal trusses 28 meters long and 4.8 meters deep. In the horizontal sections, with an inclination of 20%, the same triangular pattern is repeated as in the trusses. Both the secondary structure and the substructure of the covering cellular polycarbonate have been modulated following the direction of the diagonal straps of the trusses. Everything is modulated according to the size of the cellular polycarbonate plates, generating constructive cleanliness and dimensional coordination throughout the building. The pergola has been formalized by extending the lowest truss of the frontón another 28 meters to the east, parallel to the existing retaining wall and supported by a triangular concrete pillar of the same proportions as the truss modules.
- Treatment of existing ones. Its premise is reduction. Faced with the previous situation, based on “patch” interventions, it is committed to unifying textures of both pavements and walls, to provide prominence to the vegetation and the new roof.
The urbanization is formalized using a continuous polished-bush hammered concrete pavement. The retraction cuts of the concrete have been made following a triangular pattern based on the triangulation of the main trusses of the frontón. Thus, the pavement becomes a tapestry that makes the different finishes and slight unevenness disappear in all square areas. To create a triangular mosaic that generates a continuous urban space, which, together with the strategic arrangement of the urban furniture, facilitates the delimitation of the different areas without the need for other types of added barriers.
The existing retaining walls, the fruit of the unevenness of urban space, and the necessary railings are treated with the same idea of the unification of textures and colors. In addition, climbing plants have been placed in areas where it is interesting to reduce their presence.
- Treatment of green areas. The value of nature in such dense urban environments has been interpreted, and an attempt has been made to enhance and respect the existing vegetation as much as possible. It has been proposed to maintain the wild character of the current green areas by eliminating the vegetation in poor condition and planting trees and species suitable for the needs of each space.