French furniture and product designer Philippe Starck made his public debut as an architect by remaking this one-time Modernisme white elephant as Bilbao’s cultural and sporting center. Opened in 1909 as a wine storage facility, the building was devastated by fire 10 years later. The shell of brick, iron, and concrete waited decades for this reincarnation before finally opening in 2010. The subterranean levels contain an exhibition gallery and a concert hall. Starck kept the ground level intentionally dark to encourage romantic trysts, and it is a forest of columns decorated in different whimsical motifs. They support brick and glass cubes containing a multimedia public library, a state-of-the-art gym, and a rooftop swimming pool. The Alhóndiga also has its own cafes, restaurants, and bars.
- Frommer's Staff