Barrio de San Adrián

Adrian Deuna auzoa

San Adrián

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The neighborhood of San Adrián is located in the southern periphery of Bilbao, at the foot of the Pagasarri and Ganekogorta hills. The conjunction of a series of factors conditioned its layout and growth, namely: its eccentric localization, its position on a steep hillside, its proximity to mines and certain functions that until recently were midway between rural and urban. Until the second half of the XX century it did not acquire any substantial size as a neighborhood.

Cartography at the start of the XIX century provides us with an image of a small farmhouse next to the Urízar tower-house and the shrine that gives the district its name, on the route that climbs towards the San Roque shrine on the way to the Pagasarri hill. It is an enclave of the Abando parish that is mountainous, sparsely populated and at a considerable distance from the bank of the Estuary that connects with the Old Town of Bilbao. Testimonies concerning the district can be found in the Historia de la Noble Villa de Bilbao by Teófilo Guiard. The procession to the San Roque shrine – a procession that was instituted in memory of the plague epidemic that devastated the township in 1530 – is described by this author describes as “more pompous”. During its descent the procession made a halt at the San Adrián shrine, of which nothing remains since its disappearance in 1970. It was located close to the present-day parish of Nuestra Señora de Lourdes y San Adrián.

The natural resources of this area, wood and iron ore, served to develop the maritime industry and forges on the Estuary. T. Guiard, in his work La industria naval vizcaína, refers to shipbuilding activities already taking place in Abando in the XV century, along the bank of the Estuary from the Marzana shipyard to Zorroza. The wood for developing this industry was obtained from areas of the Pagasarri and Artxanda, although it was also imported, which increased the freight carried by Bilbao merchant shipping. 

The modern process of industrialization, which started in the second third of the XIX century, was accompanied by strong demographic growth. A new city took shape following the annexations of Abando and Begoña and the creation of a network of infrastructures and facilities, aimed at covering the needs of a growing urban population. In the 1860s the massive mineral exploitation of Miribilla started and this mining activity extended as far as Iturrigori and San Andrián. Abandonada, San Luis, Malaespera and Julia were the names of some of the mines. These Bilbao mines were active for over 100 years, until the 1970s. The “mine houses” of this neighborhood are well-known, located in the parish of Nuestra Señora de Lourdes y San Adrián. The process of Bilbao’s modern urban development also brought the need for new services and facilities. When construction of a new cemetery was being planned, due to the poor repair and saturation of the Mallona cemetery, the possibility of situating it on lands of Torre Urízar was considered. 78,429 m2 and a suitable orientation were available, but the proposal was rejected as it was only 600 meters from the Cantalojas Bridge.

The first project to alleviate the problem of the shortage of workers’ housing was carried out in the Solokoetxe neighborhood; construction of the second project started in Torre Urízar in 1919. This was a group of 264 apartments and 11 premises, arranged in five-story blocks and organized around three squares. The apartments were allocated by lottery in 1921.

In 1945 the General Urban Development Plan for the Bilbao area was approved. The elaboration of different partial plans to put its proposals into effect began two years later. In this context, the Urban Development Plan for the southern zone of Bilbao was put out to tender with the aim of developing the high neighborhoods of Rekalde, Torre Urizar, Larraskitu and San Adrián. The process was delayed, but in 1958 the first residents took possession of their apartments in what would be the neighborhood of San Adrián, which still lacked infrastructure. The buildings were adapted to the road layout; these were access roads intended to connect the peripheral districts of the south with the center, running from San Adrián, through Zabálburu Square, entering the Extension District via San Mamés Avenue and Hurtado de Amézaga.

Thirty years later there were more than 5,000 inhabitants in the neighborhood according to data from the Population and Housing Census of 1991, almost the same population size as San Francisco, Atxuri and Zabala, and even bigger than the Old Town. Following the crisis, the General Urban Development Plan of Bilbao was put into effect in the 1990s, dealing with the change in the city model. The developments it proposed included the rehabilitation and creation of new residential areas, such as the case of Miribilla, which had a great effect on San Adrián due to the reorganization in this sector of the city, its new aesthetic and image.


Susana Serrano Abad


    Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes y San Adrián (ed.) 50 años de vida de San Adrián, Bilbao, 2006; SERRANO ABAD, S. “San Adrián, del monte a la ciudad”, en Bilbao y sus barrios: una mirada desde la historia, Bidebarrieta, Vol. 5 (2010), pp. 167-203; ZÁRRAGA, A. (coord.) Estudio sociológico de Larraskitu-San Adrián, Bilbao, Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes y San Adrián, 1990.