Avant-garde art in Arenatzarte
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For centuries Güeñes and neighbouring Zalla were part of the same town – the Salcedo Valley, not a random name judging from the precious mountains and hills surrounding it.
Like bordering Gordexola, Güeñes is home to many tower-houses bearing testimony to a violent past of factional fighting. De la Quadra Tower is perhaps the most representative sample, an outstanding building from the 15th century and the first the visitor will see if coming from Bilbao. Many such buildings stand across the four districts that comprise this town, together with a few modernist edifices like an Art Deco-style turret turned into a pharmacy in Sodupe district.
Sodupe has undergone impressive demographic growth and is now the nerve centre of the town, filled with businesses and a lively trading activity. But Güeñes, although smaller and quieter, remains the heart of the municipality, if only because the rest of the town is named after it. The mainly Gothic Santa María Church was erected around the 16th century following a variety of styles, like a magnificent Renaissance portico. The Town Hall building sits nearby – a stunning mansion that once belonged to a family of indianos, or Basques who had made a fortune in the Americas and built impressive homes upon return.
The former gardens of the house have been recently transformed into a sculpture park, ARENATZarte, where an annual paper dress contest is held in September. The competition is timed to coincide with a local festivity in a cheerful atmosphere, and requires advanced sewing skills, as stapling and gluing are not allowed. The works are then permanently exhibited along this park that is in truth a mix of an authentic botanical garden and an outdoor museum of avant-garde sculptures.
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