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The Basque Country International Architecture Biennial Mugak/ exceeds 90,000 participants in its fourth edition

Photo: Mikel Blasco

  • Promoted by the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport of the Basque Government, the main architectural event of the Atlantic Arc has maintained its upward trend in terms of participation.
  • The ephemeral pavilions have taken the Biennial out into the streets with a great response from the public.
  • Mugak/ has counted in this 2023 with prestigious professionals such as the 'pritzker' Wang Shu, the researcher Beatriz Colomina or the studio amid.cero9.
  • The programme, which has been extended throughout Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria-Gasteiz from 25 October to 24 November, has been the result of the work of more than twenty entities, which have added their proposals to bring architecture closer to the citizens and offer it as another cultural asset.

The Basque Country International Architecture Biennial Mugak/ has bid farewell to its fourth edition with a hundred or so activities that have attracted more than 90,000 people. Held from 25 October to 24 November, promoted by the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport of the Basque Government and curated by the architect María Arana, Mugak/ has once again managed to offer a wide-ranging programme that has enabled the general public to enjoy architecture as another cultural asset.

In this edition, under the slogan 'rebuild, reinhabit, rethink', the three Basque capitals have hosted exhibitions, conferences, workshops, artistic interventions and ephemeral pavilions, which have grown between 13 and 22% in attendance with respect to the one held in 2021. "Mugak/ has gained in quality and in the variety of perspectives from which to analyse architecture, design and urban planning; It has also attracted a younger public than in previous editions, which confirms the interest of the new generations in this discipline and in reflecting on why we live the way we live in our cities and towns and how we can do so in the future", said Pablo García Astrain, director of Housing, Land and Architecture of the Basque Government, who also stressed that, "in its fourth edition, Mugak/ has already exceeded the objectives of the number of people attending that were set at the beginning of the Biennial for the long term".

The kick-off of this fourth edition was given by the Chinese architect Wang Shu, winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2012, an event that brought together more than 600 people at the Kursaal in San Sebastian. Since then, the programme has been held simultaneously in the three Basque capitals with around a hundred activities, among which the three ephemeral pavilions of this edition have been very well received by the public.

With these temporary constructions, citizens have had the opportunity to reflect on the impact of climate change through 'Lost Forest', which landed next to Zurriola beach in San Sebastian as a result of the collaboration with TAC! Festival of Urban Architecture; it has been able to see first-hand how the spaces of a home can be rethought and expanded through innovation with 'Mugak/ HABIT[atu]Z'; and with 'Argi', a project by students and faculty of the UPV-EHU School of Architecture, it has been able to see how architecture can be agile and flexible. All these constructions have been located in emblematic spaces in Basque cities and have hosted activities from the Biennial programme within them.

"It has been an invitation to reflect on the energy of an architecture designed to be reused and transformed to adapt to multiple contexts or needs. An invitation to think about other ways of prolonging the useful life of this type of infrastructure, innovating not only in its construction and assembly but also in the way in which it is dismantled and acquires a second useful life. A multifunctional, flexible and reversible architecture, conceived as an exercise in sustainability, that serves to provide multiple and proactive responses in this context of uncertainty and permanent change that we are facing", emphasised the curator, María Arana.

One of the focal points of Mugak/ 2023 and one that has attracted the interest of professionals from the sector and the public has been the Basque Institute of Architecture, which has once again been the venue for the Biennial's main exhibition. Inhabiting Change', which will remain open until 25 February 2024, proposes a collective dialogue between renowned figures from the world of architecture and the arts, who have brought together their original pieces, projects and representations of their practices in this self-produced exhibition. The national and international professionals who have participated in the exhibition through their projects have come to the Basque Country over the last month to reflect with the public.

The 2023 Biennial has been "plural, varied and reflective", said Arana, who highlighted the wide-ranging programme thanks to the proposals and participation of numerous entities through the line of subsidies from the Department of Housing for this purpose. As a novelty, this year the Off Mugak/ programme of parallel events has been launched, through which entities from inside and outside the Basque Country have been able to add their projects to the Biennial. In total, more than twenty organisations have collaborated in this fourth edition of Mugak/ to tackle architecture, urban planning and design as tools for tackling the major challenges of today's and tomorrow's society from a diverse perspective.

The Programme is being prepared