A Basque pelota fronton in the heart of Madrid: the Beti-Jai reopens a century later

Surely you have ever walked through the famous Chamberí neighborhood, in the heart of Madrid. They are streets full of buildings of great architectural beauty, which hide a sporting legacy within their walls: the Beti-Jai pediment.

They are façade looks like any other buildingbut inside it houses a architectural jewel with more than 100 years of history. A building with a glorious past in which both kings and citizens enjoyed what was the most popular sport of the time: Basque pelota. A place with as many lives as there are stories in its walls.

Now, Beti-Jai has been rehabilitated and will open its doors in the first quarter of 2024, thanks to the meticulous work and the union between sport and architecture. “It is as if in 100 years we move to the Santiago Bernabeu empty“says architect Patricia García Redondo, on the ‘Open House Madrid’ YouTube channel.

When we tell someone that there is a Basque pelota fronton within a block of the Chamberí neighborhood and that from the facade goes completely unnoticed, they don’t understand it“says Patricia García.

And to understand it you have to look back more than 100 years. We go back to 1894, when the Vasca ball experienced a great boom throughout Spain and The Beti-Jai pediment was one of the largest in the countrywith 67 x 29 square meters and a capacity of 4,000 spectators.

The Beti-Jai pediment at the beginning of the 19th century Betijaimadrid.es

This space became one of the places of the social life of the Madrid court, where they watched the Basque pelota championships. Although they also celebrated fencing, equestrian championshipsrallies and even musical shows.

Until it fell into oblivion in 1919, when it stopped working and It became a space for different uses: house cars, a police station, a prison or a workshop for plaster and papier-mâché objects. “The decay came from the abandonment of the neighbors and the entry of water, when the roof, which was made up of a metal structure, degraded,” explains the architect. Luckily, This problem has been resolved thanks to “a wooden structure, supported with metal beams and covered by zinc, which is a waterproof material.”

A gem that went unnoticed

The façade has remained hidden from the eyes of passers-by, in an advanced state of degradation. So much so that when it was decided to access the building again I was in a terrible state of conversationalmost ruined.

There was a kind of forest inside the block, but the spirit of Beti-Jai survived more than a century later. In 1991, he was declared National Monument and in 2011, Asset of Cultural Interest. In May 2015, the City Council completed the expropriation process and acquired the Beti-Jai.

Since then, they got to work to achieve a rehabilitation that was complicated and that ended at the beginning of 2019. It was time to start a meticulous research work with a clear objective: that the new Beti-Jai was as faithful as possible to the original.

The comprehensive rehabilitation of a legacy

The resurgence of this legacy has been possible thanks to the effort born from two passions: sport and architecture. “The front façade, which faces Marqués de Riscal Street, confused many architects, because its roof is made up of a flat tile that was not used at the end of the 19th century. It has been a tedious effort to know where that tile came from and how to get it again“, says the architect Patricia García.

Like this, many more unanswered questions and queries have surfaced in recent years and have been resolved thanks to newspapers of the timelibrary documentary collections, collaboration with associations and experts.

Facade of the Beti-Jai pediment from Marqués del Riscal street Betijaimadrid.es

For example, the roof tiles “were original Valladolid that have been found thanks to cuttings from the time.” In addition, the work has been carried out using a comprehensive reconstruction piece by piece: “Another important point of the recovery is the façade of the main body, in which bricks have been recovered one by onewhich are neo-Mudejar style and come from Malaga,” says the architect.

In 2024 it will be the 130th anniversary of the Beti-Jai pediment And what better way to celebrate than to visit this architectural diamond, which will reopen in the first quarter of the year and whose reconstruction has been possible thanks to the combination of traditional methods with the most modern. This is the Beti-Jai, a jewel of Basque sporting traditionhidden, although for a short time, in the capital of Madrid.

2023-12-25 05:50:28
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