Tabakalera / San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain

Tabakalera / San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain

for artists and curators

A prism shining bright soon for the Basque culture

The old tobacco factory is beautifully located in the city centre of San Sebastián, opposite of the North train station and by the riverside. Changing its means from

Unknown-1producing cigarettes to ‘producing’ culture, their objective is to be a centre for the creation of contemporary culture that is under construction, with the ambition of also generating critical thought, reflection and debate. And at present the term ‘under construction’ can be taken literary: The building from 1913 with its four levels on 13.277 square meters is renovated at present. The construction works were delayed for several months due to the financial crisis in Spain, but then the process moved on constantly. The administration offices of the fifteen permanent employees as well as exhibitions are temporarily located in different rented spaces in order to carry out their activities.

For 90 years the building hosted Spain’s largest tobacco production and was closed in 2003. One year later the whole complex was bought by the Donostia-San Sebastian City Council, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the Basque Government in order to transform it into an international contemporary culture centre: contemporary art, video and cinema, design and sound accumulated at the same space. It shall become a singular space of exhibitions and audio-visual programmes and, above all, a place to work, to produce, to create.

Strictly speaking, the institution will work in four areas: 1) contemporary practices including audiovisual contents, 2) laboratories, 3) media library, which will be huge, called Ubik, and 4) mediation to promote the activities in the region.
Prospectively it will be opened in July 2015, just in time for San Sebastián being Cultural Capital of Europe in 2016. Moreover, the building will be hosting several cultural institutions and containing working studios and living space for several artists in residence at the same time, depending on the project.

As the main goal of this endeavour is to promote contemporary cultural creation in various creative fields through all its stages (research, production, exhibition) and to generate and share knowledge, all kinds of artists are welcome. According to Naiara Uranga, press and PR department, local as well as international artists will be invited, also to realise workshops with the inhabitants of the Basque Country, scheduled for one day of up to one week. This shall contribute to create a robust creative community and provide a platform for collaborative work between assorted organisations and the public.

The concept shall be integral and pioneering – fostering international exchange as well as supporting strongly the region.
For example, on the top level there shall be a restaurant offering not only a magnificent view over the city under the lights of the widely shining prism, but also typically Basque dishes.
Apart from the impressive architecture and great contents of Tabakalera, another very
interesting part of a stay in San Sebastián is getting to know more about the Basque language and culture. Not only that most institutions and businesses work bilingually, also Basque poetry has reached a very elaborated and at the same time broad popular impact. This reminds on the ancient greek theatre running spectacles in huge open air arenas for a whole day.


Learn more about the famous Bertsoz and their spontaneous rhyming of lyrical songs on stage in front of thousands of people. In contests lasting up to eight hours the singers are competing for the title of the best – improvising on current topics like political, social and everyday life issues. There is a nice 6 min documentary report on youtube (in Basque language).


More info about Tabakalera and
its programme you find on the
website and on Facebook or watch
the 2:30 min Tabakalera video.

Interview with Naiara Uranga, press and PR department of Tabakalera, July 2014

Photos: Tabakalera, N.U.