Bilbao, Spain was second only to Barcelona in the 19th and 20th centuries as the largest industrial city in Spain. Many factories perched on the river Nervión, even in the center of town.
Bilbao is currently famous for the Frank Gehry Guggenheim Museum—but less than 10 walking minutes down the river and you’ve entered Zorrozaurre, an artificial peninsula built in the 50s and 60s for industry, now riddled with empty, decaying factories.
This area of town is so physically well-positioned for redevelopment that in the early 2000s the city contracted Zaha Hadid for a master plan. The 2008 crash waylaid the plan, however, and there does not seem to be much local sentiment that such a big project will rise again.
There is, though, evidence of some investment—some building renovations, a few residential projects—and also there is what is happening at the Cookie Factory.
Zorrozaurre’s Cookie Factory is the home of this weekend’s Bilbao’s Maker Faire, which is why I’m in town. Organized by Nerea Diaz and Karim Asry + a great team, the Faire is just one of the initiatives borne from their Open Espacio coworking space.
Besides the Faire, Nerea and Karim also run a very popular flea market once a month there. And they are very active in trying to build a creative economy in the Cookie Factory, slowly convincing some of the older space owners in the building to decide to rent to new tenants. (The unique situation here is that when the Factory failed, the Factory sold the building by space by space. Many of these owners are absentees or just use their place as storage.)
Some of the new faces at the Cookie Factory include:
- David Gonzales and repparts3d.com (see above pic), a made-in-Bilbao RepRap based 3D printer. He and his wife Dafne, a chef, are together working on a chocolate printer, as well as electronics parts kits for schools.
- Bilbao Makers, a relatively new makerspace with 60 members, with a growing assortment of tools and workshops.
- Rafa Moro Castanedo, a talented contractor/mechanic whose career suffered greatly from the ’08 economic crisis and who now, via resources on the Internet, has learned new “maker” skills in fabrication and robotics.
- Tuomas Kuure, a woodworker and furniture maker.
- An under-construction skate park by Gure Skatskola.
Meet them and the emerging Maker City of Bilbao:
Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, Zorrozaurre and especially the Cookie Factory seem like an ideal creative economy nurturing ground: location, collaborative culture, affordability, industrial power, large elevators, infrastructure. Maker habitat. It will be very interesting to watch how the scene and physical landscape evolves here over the next five to ten years.
Next: a report from the Bilbao Mini Maker Faire. Stay tuned!