Pilotalekuak. Building the void

Pilotalekuak. Building the void

24.03.2023 — 01.10.2023



If there is one sport that has left its mark on Basque popular culture, from its collective imagination to its own towns, it is pelota. Present in our society since the Middle Ages, the popular modalities were born in simple undeveloped land and, today, there are courts with stands for thousands of people. It even became the favourite sport of Queen Maria Cristina, who often inaugurated competitions in the first great industrial pelota court, the Jai Alai de Ategorrieta (1877). 

Pilotalekuak. Building the void‘ tells the story of how the evolution of Basque pelota cannot be understood without architecture, and vice versa. The exhibition travels from the first ‘pilotasoros’ to the large pelota courts of today, analysing the different typologies and their relationship with the towns and cities of the Basque Country. All of them so singular and with different names, but all of them ‘pilotalekuak’ -places for playing pelota, in Basque-. And all of them have a single element in common: the emptiness they build, the emptiness necessary to accommodate the game itself.

Curated by the architect and professor at the UPV/EHU’s Higher Technical School of Architecture Daniel Carballo, the exhibition opens its doors until 1 October and until then will showcase the indelible imprint of this sport in our territory.

It does so through numerous contents such as the episode ‘Joko zaharrak’ from the EITB report ‘Jai Alai’; a collection of old (long and short glove for laxoa, different balls…) and modern tools for the game (xisteras, paddles…); original materials such as the botillo from Irurita (Navarre); a scale recreation of an ideal ‘pilotaplaza’; historical postcards of different frontons; a panel with nine large modern frontons compared to scale; and models, plans and photographs of the ‘pilotaplazak’ of Laguardia (Alava), Otxandio (Bizkaia), Aizarna (Gipuzkoa), Urroz-Villa (Navarre) and Sara (Labort), corresponding to different degrees of implementation of the game (with a single wall, two walls, a wall attached to a wall and even without any wall), among others.

Complementary programme

There will be several activities that will accompany the exhibition as a complementary programme: firstly, the cloister will become a laboratory and, through two workshops of three sessions each, participants will build different types of Basque pelota walls with blocks. More information here.

Secondly, on the last Thursday of April, May, June and September, the public will be able to enjoy free cinema sessions at the Basque Country Institute of Architecture, where films related to ‘pilotalekus’ will be shown. More information coming soon.

In addition, through a series of conferences, the non-architectural aspects will be explored in greater depth: as heritage, as a sport, as a social force… More information soon. 

Finally, school groups from 5th grade Primary to High School will be able to enjoy free guided tours of the exhibition on request. You can request them by sending an email to contact@eai.eus.

Frontons around the world

Discover all the frontons registered worldwide here and show us the ‘pilotaleku’ of your town or city, or the one you like the most, on social networks with the hashtag #pilotalekuak. You can find us at @eai_iae_ on all social media. 

Photo: Dabid Argindar

Coming soon