The Athletic Club headquarters are situated in Ibaigane Palace, a magnificent early twentieth century building located in the very centre of Bilbao, just metres away from the Guggenheim Museum.
Ibaigane Palace, whose developer was ship-owner and businessman Ramón de la Sota, one of the most dynamic and enterprising industrialists of his time, is the crowning work of architect Gregorio Ibarreche. It is a key building of the neo-Basque style, an outstanding example of the revivalism of the early twentieth century. In particular, Athletic Club’s headquarters remind us in a certain way of the old Biscayan medieval tower-house, converted into the residential palace of the Sota family. Due to the Basque nationalist ideology of Ramón, member of the Basque Nationalist Party of that era, and driving force and sponsor of Basque culture, the Franco dictatorship ordered the seizure of his assets, among which was Ibaigane, which became a military barracks until it was returned to its rightful owners after the death of Franco. The palace was inaugurated as the headquarters of Athletic Club in August 1988.
The palace is a square building with an almost square floor plan of 24 metres by 22. It is built over three floors which are clearly distinct in texture from the simple but interesting facade which is crowned by a four-sided roof.
In spite of its classic facade, the inner skeleton of this palace is metallic; in other words, modern for its time. Apart from the outer walls, the building was built using iron beams covered with wood and topped with brick vaults. These iron pillars, with rivet nuts – there are no welded seams – were constructed at Altos Hornos de Bizkaia, an ironworks factory which played a key part in the industrialization of Biscay.
Equally interesting is the structure and configuration of the interior. The three floors of the building open onto a courtyard crowned by a great stained-glass ceiling; the work of Anselmo de Guinea, one of the most outstanding artists in the country at the time.
The different rooms of the palace, decorated with Italian-style jambs, fine woods, red marble from Ereño, Venetian floors, moulding, coffers and fireplaces, all look out onto this central courtyard which measures seven metres by six. A chapel with its own organ completes the ornamentation of one of the most emblematic residences of early twentieth-century Bilbao. Currently, all these rooms are used as offices for the accounting department, communications department, documentation centre, marketing, management, meeting rooms…