Those who know this building well, say that it is strong, impenetrable, mysterious... and big! You are outside what is undoubtedly the building with the most significant footprint in the city.
Replacing the previous state tobacco factory located in Garibay Street, this building was inaugurated in 1913, after 25 years of complicated and expensive building works which took place at the same time as the construction of 15 other factories in cities such as Seville, Malaga, Madrid and Valencia… And you know what? They all have one thing in common: they were all built beside a railway.
The strange thing about this factory is that, despite being a site of manufacture, due to its dimensions, design and exterior appearance, it reminds us more of a palace, combining as it does, functional architecture with an aesthetic concern for beauty of line and richness of materials.
Its impressive entrance is nothing like the usual factory entrance, being palatial in feel. The staircase is similarly inspired by the baroque style, and is a key part of the building, creating and articulating a variety of spaces, while conforming to the functional criteria of the era in which it was designed and built. It's a unique building within Basque industrial architectural heritage.
When it first opened, according to the archives of the period, it was producing three and a half million cigarettes a day, and when it closed in 2002, this had gone up to five million. In its heyday, more than one thousand people, mainly women, worked there; the ratio of female to male workers was nine to one.
Millions of Farias, Celtas, Ducados and Davidoff were produced here until, in 2001, the owner, Altadis, announced its intention of closing the factory. That’s how, in 2004, the city council, the county council and the Basque government agreed to recover this vast space for the benefit of the city and turn it into a cultural centre.
Between 2011 and 2015 the Tabakalera building underwent a complete renovation with the aim of transforming the old factory into a contemporary arts centre. The biggest changes have been to the interior, while the main façade has barely changed.
The results of this transformation lie before you as you enter this vast building. Enjoy!