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Chávarri Palace

Bilbao, Bizkaia

To have a rough idea of what the Chávarri Palace was like, you would have to empty the building of all the civil servants, guards, computers, files and clip boxes that today fill the place, then replace them with a dozen servants, a gentleman with a moustache and a lady with a straight posture and a lace blouse.

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To have a rough idea of what the Chávarri Palace was like, you would have to empty the building of all the civil servants, guards, computers, files and clip boxes that today fill the place, then replace them with a dozen servants, a gentleman with a moustache and a lady with a straight posture and a lace blouse.

Afterwards, you should get in a time machine and go back to the year 1892 to see how the land that the Moyua Square occupies today becomes the exuberant garden of Victor Chávarri’s mansion; and how he admires, from above, his exhibition of fortune and power.

Buildings like this one, designed by the Belgian architect Paul Hankar and which are overwhelming, occupied the centre of the great cities of Europe and North America. Meanwhile, the surroundings of those same cities were filled with factories, smoke, grime and misery and it was from there where the wealth of the bourgeois, eager to stand out, came. This fact is recorded with a hammer and a peak engraved on a pinnacle at the Chávarri Palace itself.

But Victor Chávarri had made fortune with a thousand different things: the railway, the mines, the ships, the real estate businesses and another pile of projects from which, naturally, he had got some support from politicians and the involvement in La Piña, a powerful group that did as they pleased in Bilbao’s high places.

At the time of giving shape to his overwhelming success, Chávarri wanted to be inspired by the Flemish architecture of the fifteenth century. This is because those lands, and in those years, had much to do with the prosperity of Bilbao’s merchants who sent ships loaded with iron and wool to Antwerp and London. Victor himself had studied in Liege, and there, he had graduated as an engineer in 1878.

It wasn’t that long since that happened. Chávarri's rise had been meteoric, and he had already secured himself a place in the history of Basque society and had a few statues to remember him.

But this story has a sad end. The luxurious Victor Chávarri could hardly enjoy his enormous mansion: he died at the age of forty-six, very shortly after the building that symbolised his achievements was finished.


Chávarri Palace

Plaza Federico Moyúa, 5
48009 Bilbao

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Tags: Eclecticism

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