The sports facility “Polideportivo de Aretxabaleta” is located on a brownfield previously occupied by a traditional “pelota court” at the Basque town of Aretxabaleta. Close to an urban park by the river Deba, features the upper valley part of the town. Its double rectangular shape is built on the middle of the slope of a steep hill. Following the East-West direction, the building extends monumentally over the surrounding land.

ACBA (Fernando Bajo & Asier Acuriola)
AREA: 8314,94m2
LOCATION: Etxebarri Auzoa Nº11.
Aretxabaleta . Gipuzkoa.

Lexuri Telletxea (architect)
Trepat Olaizola S.L.P.(structures)
F&B ingenieria S.L.(installations)
Jokin Urteaga-LKS (on-site management)

CLIENT: Aretxabaleta City Council
CONTRACTOR: Construcciones Galdiano S.A

Polideportivo Ibarra by ACBA - Sheet3
©Aitor Ortiz


The starting point of the design process of this sports center takes advantage of the old retaining wall of the hill, partially resting on it, climbing against the maximum slope, and unfolding its distribution while increases gross area, height, and of course volume. An architectural strategy that finally relies on the composition of two main bodies not to alter the scale of the existing residential buildings around, in order to ensure a smooth transition with the rest of the urban fabric. A game of prisms that comply with a sort of given list of uses to fulfill the program. Besides, this articulation between easy-to-read pure volumes guarantees a powerful and recognizable image far from any ephemeral trend.

Everything seem to rest on a large pedestal that happens to be the lower solid, fully interlocked with the hill, which holds the second body of a much lighter condition. The two autonomous pieces are not coincident in their vertical projection and present a sort of shift that enhances the idea of a formal displacement with the intention to make them apart. Thus, the first one acts as the supporting plinth of the lighter one. To strengthen this idea, materials and textures operate in the same direction, perpetrating on the lower one gaps and notches as in an ancient rock. On the contrary, the upper volume leans over the urban fabric, facing to the north of the valley and the town center, as an overhang from this spectacular lookout. This lightweight gesture also takes advantage from the shiny materials chosen in order to pursue a more abstract image as part of the skyline.

Polideportivo Ibarra by ACBA - Sheet5
©Aitor Ortiz

The main part of the program is enclosed within the lower body, featuring the main entrance, control lobby, the sports court and the climbing wall (previous front wall of the “pelota court”). All around the inner core with the changing rooms, technical services, corridors and the rest of the elements which remain centralized and perfectly articulated. A functional strategy followed to minimize distances, surfaces and therefore budget. Not to mention the situation due to the limited available space within the lot.

The process of dematerialization of the two stacking volumes, is much more evident as it grows up, and somehow helps the proper organization of the different uses too, particularly the allocation of the water facilities on the upper level. A project decision supported by the amazing views towards the south part of the valley of the higher Deba, the orientation of the outdoors sun deck and its close continuation with the interior pool beaches. This watchtower location has been a design reference, represented by a large horizontal window that opens to the landscape from the swimming pool, strongly relating architecture with the close environment.

Polideportivo Ibarra by ACBA - Sheet7
©Aitor Ortiz


The skin of the lower volume, is ordered by a rhythmical arrangement of vertical trays lined up and covered with copper sheets that combine with a veneer of local limestone. They both form the outer shell of the façade, featuring this alternative use of stone and metal under different textures that grant to this pedestal a high degree of vibration. The natural oxidation process of the metal also melts with the reddish-brown hue of the surrounding soil, and will achieve a chromatic match with the hillside on which it stands.

On the contrary, the upper volume is wrapped in a milky stained U-glass, emphasizing its light character over the dark lower body. This whitish veil is again the outer part of this volume´s façade, and allows a full set of in-between lights that spreads a smooth luminescence during the night, and therefore appears like floating horizontally in the middle of the slope.

©Aitor Ortiz

That is how the whole building performs like an outstanding beacon within the Deba river valley.


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