The Hall of the Provincial Council of Álava

The Hall of the Provincial Council of Álava is located in Provincia Square in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. It is the seat of the provincial government of Álava and also houses the General Assembly hall where the plenary sessions are held.

The building, in the neoclassical style, was built in the mid-19th century to house the provincial institutions of Álava that, until then, did not have a dedicated venue to perform their duties.

Thanks to the exhaustive research carried out by the historian María Camino Urdiain Martínez, we now have detailed knowledge of the architectural history of the building.

Diego de Arriola y Esquivel was the main promoter of the project to build the Casa Palacio de Provincia - the name of the building that prevails in the documentary sources of the time - first from his post as President of the Provincial Council and later as Vice-president of the General Council.

Following the purchase of land in the area known as "Las Cercas Bajas" owned by the Álava and Saracíbar families, proposals for the construction of the building were submitted to the provincial architects Martín de Saracíbar Lafuente and José Antonio de Garaizábal. Martín Saracíbar’s architectural project was chosen. It consisted of a semi-basement and a single axial floor, with two square lateral sections to the front that were not as high as the central section. The project contemplated a square at the front and gardens at the back.

In 1834, the First Carlist War interrupted the construction work, which resumed in 1840.

The official opening of the council hall took place in November 1844, coinciding with a meeting of the Ordinary General Assembly that month. It is worth mentioning that one of the halls in the new building was used as an art gallery, mostly exhibiting paintings of a religious nature from the disentailment of the convents of Vitoria; thus, becoming the first museum in Vitoria.

In 1856, barely 12 years after its inauguration, the need to expand and adapt the building became apparent. Under the presidency of Rodrigo Pedro Varona de Salazar, a major reform of the building was undertaken, including the construction of the second floor. The project to remodel the building was carried out by the same architect who built it, Martín de Saracíbar, and was completed in 1859.

The changes also affected the exterior aspect of the building; the sculptor Carlos Imbert was commissioned in 1856 to decorate the main and side facades. He applied heraldic ornamentation over the windows of the first floor with 15 coats of arms representing the various brotherhoods and cuadrillas of Álava.

In 1864 the monumental stone sculptures by 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 the artist, Juan Ángel Sáenz. In 1995, due to the poor condition of the stone, the sculptor José Estarta Menoyo made the bronze castings of the sculptures that we can see today.

The evolution of public activities and the installation of new infrastructure, in line with technological advances, have resulted in the regular updating of the Hall of the Provincial Council of Álava from the late 19th century to the end of the 20th century. All the work required to adapt and transform the building to its strictly representative functions took place after 1972.