Ibaigane Palace acts as Athletic Club’s headquarters. It’s a magnificent early 20th 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, and an outstanding example of revivalism in the early 20th century. In particular, Athletic Club’s headquarters is reminiscent of the old medieval tower-house, a building which was converted into the residential palace for the Sota family. Due to the Basque nationalist ideology of Ramón, who was a member of the Basque Nationalist Party at the time, and a promoter and patron of Basque culture, the Franco dictatorship ordered the seizure of his assets, among which was Ibaigane. The building became a military barracks until it was returned to its rightful owners after Franco’s death. Athletic Club reached an agreement with the Sota family to purchase and restore the building, and in 1988 it was opened as the Club’s headquarters.
The building is a square-shaped block of 24 by 22 metres squared. It is has 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 constructed 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 industrialisation of Biscay.
Equally interesting is the structure and configuration of the interior. The three floors of the building open onto an inner courtyard with a great stained-glass ceiling. It is 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 this display of ornaments and furnishings in one of the most emblematic building from early 20th century Bilbao. Currently, all these rooms are used as offices for the accounting department, communications department, documentation centre, marketing, management, meeting rooms, etc.
Ibaigane is Athletic Club’s administrative heart, and it is where the Board of Directors meets.