The Headquarters of the Provincial Council of Álava

The headquarters of the Provincial Council of Álava is located in the Plaza de la Provincia square in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. It is the seat of the provincial government of Álava and also hosts the plenary sessions of the General Assembly.

Until this neoclassical style palazzo was erected in the mid-19th century the provincial institutions of Álava had no dedicated home base.

Exhaustive research by historian María Camino Urdiain Martínez has provided us with detailed knowledge of the architectural history of the building.

Documentary records from the time refer to the building as the Casa Palacio de Provincia. Its main promoter was Diego de Arriola y Esquivel, first from his post as Chairman of the Provincial Council and later as Deputy Chief Councillor.

Land in an area known as "Las Cercas Bajas" was purchased from the Álava and Saracíbar families, and provincial-council architects Martín de Saracíbar Lafuente and José Antonio de Garaizábal were asked to submit designs for a building. Martín Saracíbar’s design project was chosen: it consisted of a semi-basement and a single floor built along a lengthwise axis, with two forward-facing square sections at its ends which stood lower than the central section. The project envisaged a square at the front and gardens at the back.

In 1834 construction work was halted at the outbreak of the First Carlist War. It resumed in 1840.

The building was officially opened in November 1844 and staged the Ordinary General Assembly meeting scheduled for that month. It is worth mentioning that one of the rooms in the new building was used as an art gallery, mostly exhibiting paintings with religious themes from the disbanding of the convents in Vitoria, making it the city’s first museum.

By 1856, barely 12 years after its inauguration, the building clearly needed to be expanded and adapted. During the mandate of Rodrigo Pedro Varona de Salazar as Chief Councillor, a major refurbishment of the building was undertaken which included the construction of the upper storey. The project to remodel the building was designed by the same architect who built it, Martín de Saracíbar, and was completed in 1859.

The changes also affected the exterior appearance of the building: sculptor Carlos Imbert was commissioned in 1856 to decorate the façade and side walls. He placed ornamental heraldic features over the windows of the first floor with 15 coats of arms representing the guilds and cuadrillas of Álava.

In 1864 large statues of Prudencio María de Verástegui and Miguel Ricardo de Álava were placed at the end of the façade’s staircase; they were also sculpted by Carlos Imbert, based on drawings by artist Juan Ángel Sáenz. The deterioration of the stone led to the original statues being replaced in 1995 by the bronze castings by sculptor José Estarta Menoyo that can be seen today.

Changes over time in public administration work and the installation of new infrastructure in line with advances in technology resulted in several refurbishments between the late 19th century and the late 20th. From 1972 onwards further work was done which gave the building its current symbolic status.