Founded by Eduardo Chillida during his lifetime, Chillida Leku is home to the most comprehensive body of works by the artist. It is located on the outskirts of Hernani near San Sebastián and comprises a sculpture park and an exhibition space inside the converted caserío Zabalaga, a traditional Basque country house dating from the sixteenth century.
The house and its adjoining land was purchased in the 1980s by Eduardo Chillida and his wife Pilar Belzunce, who dedicated the next fifteen years to sensitively restoring it. The project was carried out in close collaboration with the Basque architect Joaquín Montero, who helped them to realise their personal vision for the exhibition space. At Chillida Leku the artist created a place (‘Leku’ translates as ‘place’ in the Basque language) where future generations could experience his work as he intended, and in an unparalleled setting.
Once the works were concluded and the caserío was brought back to optimum conditions, the museum opened to the public on 16 September 2000, in an act presided by King Juan Carlos I of Spain, the then president José María Aznar, the lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe and the German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Since that date, Chillida Leku upheld its mission to promote and conserve his work and, despite the fact that the museum closed to the general public in 2011, it maintained the possibility of visits by prior arrangement.
In 2019 the museum is reopening to the general public, following the refurbishment supervised by the Argentinean architect Luis Laplace, known for his restoration and interior design projects and his expertise in the art and culture sector. Laplace is working in close collaboration with local architect Jon Essery Chillida, grandson of the sculptor.
The existing premises were in good condition and did not require a substantial overhaul. The appearance and structure of the caserío, the museum’s main building, are exactly as conceived by Chillida. The caserío has also been equipped with museum standard lighting, insulation, and better access to meet the needs of people with reduced mobility.
As well as these improvements the museum has also added a welcome centre for visitors, a “Lurra” café and a store. The project also includes a renovated carpark and insightful input from the Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf, a pioneer of the New Perennial movement, who has introduced subtle new landscaping elements.