LOLA and IWA transform old Bilbao cemetery into urban garden
LOLA Landscape Architects / IWA Studio

LOLA and IWA transform old Bilbao cemetery into urban garden

5 Sep 2023  •  News  •  By Ronnie Weessies

LOLA Landscape Architects, together with Spain's IWA Studio, will transform a former cemetery in Bilbao into a public urban garden. The transformation will preserve the character and natural atmosphere of the old cemetery, the firms promise. In addition, tombstones and other objects will be reused, relocated and restored where necessary.

LOLA and IWA won the contract to transform the Begoña cemetery through a competition. The Basque city issued it after excavating the remains of the 4,700 people buried there. Among other things, Begoña housed a mass grave from the Spanish Civil War (1936-'39). The human remains are being used for historical research.

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History and heritage are important aspects in the transformation into an urban garden, LOLA and IWA say. Besides preserving the character of the cemetery as much as possible and giving all the tombstones, structures and smaller objects a new place, there will be a memorial place for the war victims in the mass grave at the entrance.

The new city garden consists of a central garden and a small botanical garden. Both parts are accessible via a series of steps that also bridge the difference in height on the sloping terrain. Fragments of the DNA of the people who lay in the mass grave are visible in the paving of the city garden.

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The central garden, where the existing tomb temples are given a new place, has an open character. The garden is separated from the outside world by detached volumes and trees. The botanical garden is arranged much more densely with trees and plants. Between the two gardens, at the end of the stairs, there will be a small pavilion where visitors can have a drink.

The project is expected to be completed in 2025, LOLA and IWA report.

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