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Competition: Beti Jai, Madrid

The City of Madrid has announced an international contest for a €11 million overhaul of the abandoned Beti Jai pelota arena (Deadline: 16 August)

The competition will select a team to restore and reconfigure the disused pelota venue, known locally as a fronton, which last hosted a match almost 100 years ago.

The project will transform the J-shaped, Joaquín Rucoba-designed stadium into a landmark facility for pelota, a sport that originated in the Basque Country and is played against a large wall using a racket, wooden bat or basket.

Beti Jai, Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

Source: Image by Igor González Martín

Beti Jai, Madrid

According to the brief: ‘The object of the present contest is the selection of the team for the drafting of the basic project and execution and direction of the works of adaptation and rehabilitation of the Beti Jai pediment.

‘The winner of the competition will receive a prize of €20,000, plus the commission for the execution project and the management of the works for an amount equivalent to 10 per cent of the project value, estimated at €11 million. The two contestants classified after the winner of the contest (second and third prize) will each receive a prize of €3,000.’

The Beti Jai fronton is around 1.8km north-east of the city centre and was constructed in a Moorish Revival architectural style in 1894, but ceased operating as a sports venue 25 years later.

The iconic Joaquín Rucoba-designed arena was later used as a police station during the Spanish Civil War before being converted into a Citroën garage in the later 20th century. Since the 1990s, various restoration projects have failed to materialise, leaving the historic venue in local government stewardship.

Beti Jai, Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

Source: Image by Igor González Martín

Beti Jai, Madrid

The latest project aims to restore the ruined 10,800m² complex – which can hold up to 4,000 spectators – and create a landmark new venue for the dramatic sport in which balls can travel at up to 200km per hour.

The overall winner will receive around €20,000 and a design contract to deliver the project. A second prize and third prize of approximately €3,000 will also be awarded.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 16 August

Contact details

City of Madrid
P-2807900-B
C / Montalbán
1, 2nd floor
Madrid
28014
Spain

Tel: +34 915880021
Email: contratacioncultura@madrid.es
Fax: +34 915881172

View the contract notice for more information

Q&A with Carmen Rojas Cerro

The general coordinator of culture, sports and tourism at the City Council of Madrid discusses her ambitions for the competition

Carmen Rojas Cerro

Carmen Rojas Cerro

Carmen Rojas Cerro

Why are you holding a competition to regenerate the disused Beti‐Jai sports venue?

The building belongs to the City Council of Madrid and from the Cultural and Sport Area we are really worried about the preservation and conservation of our buildings. This is a building that has a unique typology, as well as a great example of the historic architecture of Madrid during the 19th century. Beti‐Jai designed by Joaquín de Rucoba, adds a remarkable and unique characteristic to the rest of the buildings, the lightweight grandstands frame belonging to a technique called ‘iron architecture’, mixing metal with the Neomudejar compound.

Despite its importance in the past, as years passed, the building lost its original use as a fronton and it was set aside and inadequately used, which caused its damage. This is maybe due to the lack of interest in pelota from Madrid citizens or there might be other reasons. Nevertheless, our goal today is to find sustainable uses trying to reach the best architectonical solutions to this emblematic building.

Last year a new Special Plan defined the possible uses of the building. These are sports, cultural and educational uses with other complementary uses. That is why the old fronton could become a fronton again, or it could have other sports, cultural or educational uses.

Beti Jai, Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

Source: Image by Igor González Martín

Beti Jai, Madrid

However, our contestants are not being asked to show their ideas about the uses, because this is for the next competition. For the moment we are going to think about solutions for the building, which is a protected monument. The idea of proposing a competition to regenerate the Beti Jai comes from the City Council of Madrid, which thinks that professional talent can help recover the unique life of the building. Technology and new architectural talent, as well as professional experience, are essential characteristics to find the opportunities that the Beti Jai needs. 

The City Council of Madrid aims to respond to the interests and concerns of the population. We are maintaining  strategies to keep and revive minority sports, such as fencing, climbing, hockey, rugby and fronton.

What is your vision for the future of the Beti‐Jai building?

We want the Beti Jai to become an important infrastructure of the Chamberí district and the city of Madrid as well. From one side we are trying to recover pelota for professionals, amateurs or learners of this sport, but also we want to have room for other kinds of sports or events such as concerts or entertainment, exhibitions and even a meeting point for gastronomy world linking it with pelota sport.

We consider that linking technology innovation with the recovering of a historical building is the key to create a building that juggles the language of 19th-century architecture and contemporary language. We need a building that assumes all the uses that current society demands, including all the aspects related to sustainability, energy-efficiency and accessibility.

Beti Jai, Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

Source: Image by Diario de Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

The restoration of Beti‐Jai, as with historic buildings in general, is difficult. Many voices call for its replacement by modern architecture icons or recreations made with identical or similar materials as the original. Madrid had lost emblematic buildings during the Civil War and the urban speculation period that followed.

That’s why we are all very keen that a building as Beti‐Jai could be preserved in conjunction with sporting or cultural uses. The cooperation between City Council and the Official Chamber of Architects of Madrid ensures publicity of the winning project by both institutions.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

This project is intended for a famous and prestigious architect; if that happens, the building will become more valuable. The aim is to achieve the most suitable solution for the building, since, obviously, it is challenge to adapt a historical building to different contemporary uses, as well as, to reclaim pelota sport or other sports and cultural uses. Doubtlessly, the main figure of this project is the Beti Jai Building.

Beti Jai, Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

In the near future, the City Council of Madrid will address the construction of six new libraries and there will be competitions for these projects. The idea will be to get modern, useful and sustainable buildings to create modern libraries that meet the demand of new needs and the enjoyment of citizens who love culture and reading.

Are there any other disused sports venue restoration projects you have been impressed by?

While Madrid was bidding to host the 2016 Olympics, several sports buildings were built that are not used. Nowadays, pelota game is a minority sport, but it has not disappeared. Currently, the city has 19 municipal frontons outdoors and two indoors (one of the was recently built and it is in La Elipa, Moratalaz district). This fact shows that even one century after the decay of pelota sport, it is still practised and it has municipal buildings.

Besides, there are different types of pelota sport. They may be less seen in Madrid, such as ‘la cesta de punta’ that was the one that was played in Beti Jai. The pelota court of the building has the dimensions of this type of game, so you could play with baskets, paddle or using your hands, or you could practice other sports.

The works in the Beti‐Jai building will not only recover the unquestionable hereditary and historical value of the building itself, but also it will be a boost for the organisation of pelota competitions and exhibitions and also the creation of schools for the different types of pelota sport. It is also expected that the future building could be home to other sports, due to its functionality and the shortage of sports areas in the district. Also, it will share space with other cultural uses. Other recent examples of building and spaces recovery in order to practise minority sports is the natural environment of Madrid Río where green and leisure spaces coexist with chito, calva or petanca courts which are traditional sports that are still practised.

Beti Jai, Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

Source: Image by Diario de Madrid

Beti Jai, Madrid

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