JAI ALAI MADRID FRONTON

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Beti Jai The last Surviving Basque pelota Historic Fronton in Madrid


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Essay by blanco Copertone and Patxi Eguiluz

The juego of pelota is probably as viejo as humanity, together you only need ns ball and a configurar wall. In Spain, the juego of pelota play against un wall has actually been present in every province, every one having actually their very own rules, with the vertical wall being los essential component of the urban morphology of los towns.

Tu lees esto: Jai alai madrid fronton

It to be in the Basque Country, however, where an ext variations that the juego developed: pelota mano (hand-pelota), pala (using un wooden racket), y the more iconic modalities, cesta punta (jai alai), and remonte (a variant of jai alai where ns ball can not be retained, for which the player uses ns wicker bent basket that permits him to choose up ns ball and throw the at accelerates to 300 k/h).

These games, which had actually traditionally to be played locally, had actually an unparalleled expansion at the end of ns nineteenth century with un worldwide reach, maintaining los original rules y even exporting the Basque name Jai Alai (Merry Festival). There were frontons (pelota courts) in China and the Philippines, in nuevo York, y in all of del sur America. It to be one of the most extendido games in Cuba, Florida, and, of course, Spain.

In Madrid, hidden in between residential buildings y scaffolding the masks that current estado of disrepair, there is uno witness of that glorious period for the Basque pelota: ns fronton Beti Jai. Us look back at los past, present, and, we hope, promise future of los only instance of a sports venue still remaining in Madrid from the nineteenth century.

The expansion of the juego of pelota

After ns death the the king of Spain Alfonso XII in 1885, los Queen Regent Maria Christina of austria moved her vacaciones destination to los coastal city of smo Sebastián, Spain in the Basque Country. Los consequence of the decision was ns large existence of ns aristocracy of la villa de madrid in ns city. It turned, first los Queen Regent y then ns wealthy great of Madrid, into fans of the sport in fashion in ~ that tiempo in los city: ns Basque pelota. The juego was, by the time, a experto sport, con big sums the money being invested on bets.

Thanks come its influence, over there were several frontons constructed in madrid in uno short duration of time so that its citizens could also enjoy the new fashionable game of pelota. By los time that los permit to build ns Beti Jai was requested in October of 1893, there were already six other frontons in la villa de madrid and, several of them, choose the partido Alegre, had actually an elegant façade similar to uno neoclassical theatre boasting ns capacity of much more than 5,500 people.

The developer

José Arana was uno businessman from San Sebastián that had come to be wealthy through investing los money he had won in the Spanish Christmas Lottery in a company exporting foreign food products. That opened ns Beti Jai fronton in san Sebastián in the summer the 1893, later recognized as Fronton Arana in honor of its developer. Witnessing ns success of los pelota game in Madrid, that same year he determined to build ns fronton in la capital de españa with los same name.

He located los building in ns parcel in one of ns blocks the were being developed north of ns historic centrar of Madrid. Near the Paseo después la Castellana, y only five hundred meters from the historical center, ns parcel was perfectly situated in the nuevo area of Madrid.

To build ns fronton, Arana and his business partner Antonio Modesto del Unibaso hired the architect Joaquín Rucoba. Rucoba had actually been ns municipal architect in Malaga, whereby he built La Malagueta bullring (1874) and the Atarazanas market (1879). In Bilbao, he built dos of his most essential projects: ns Arriaga theater (1890) and the new city Hall (1892).

The architect

Joaquín Rucoba studied style at los School of design of Madrid. He was ns clear depiction of uno school the had damaged off from the royal Academy of well Arts of san Fernando to sell studies that an unified traditional imaginative aspects with a nuevo technical education: the industria revolution brought new materials y new technical remedies that might be applied to buildings.

Already in his at an early stage project for ns Atarazanas sector in Malaga, he offered forged steel to achieve large spans that simplified ns structure. Like many of los architects of ns era, he to be unable to know that this nuevo technique required a new language, therefore he finished up covering ns steel pillars with Arabian-style decorations come soften their industrial appearance.

The building

The Beti Jai opened on April 29, 1894. The was uno summary of the best jobs of Joaquín Rucoba. For this project, Rucoba created a neoclassical façade facing the Marqués de Riscal calle in which he employed the same stylistic aspects previously offered in los Arriaga theatre in Bilbao: big openings the ended with semicircular arches that covered the ground y mezzanine levels and, above them, erguido windows con an oculus above ns lintel in the main floor. For the area of ns stands, that used a structure that forged steel pillars and beams (with lavish decoration created con molds offsite) that facilitated ns viewing of ns sports area, a structural solution casta to the one he provided in the La Malagueta bull ring. Unlike other frontons, Beti Jai had ns curved stand area that increased the distance to los court come avoid los possibility that stray balls hitting ns spectators. But los main new of los building was the use of bent beams in los stands, creating un slope that noted optimum viewing conditions for ns game. All los elements of this structural device were made in an offsite factory y assembled top top site, making it one of los first examples of prefabricated construction. Because that the página façades of ns building, Rucoba developed brick walls of neomudéjar layout (a Moorish renewal architectural movement), un style he likewise used in the side of los frontis (the pared of ns fronton), where los access door is perfect with a horseshoe arch. Los use of ns neomudéjar layout is a clear authorize of ns period in which los building to be built, when old styles to be reintroduced to affirm a “national identity” in troubled tiempo such as los ones in those years.

The new fronton competed con the fiesta Alegre in elegance and design, and became known from that moment on as los “Royal theater of the frontons.”1 It had actually lounge rooms facing los Marqués ese Riscal street, as well as uno café y kitchen in the trasero area. As can be seen representar the mapa of madrid drawn by Pedro Núñez Granés,2 in mil novecientos diez the Beti Jai to be still ns only structure in that block, and all façades to be visible from the key street.

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The decline

Probably early out to the saturation the frontons and daily games, but likewise due to its own design (it was uno very big uncovered fronton in a ciudad with cold winters), the exclusive use of Beti Jai because that the game of pelota did not último long. Between mil ochocientos noventa y siete and 1916 the building was supplied for charity and social events, horse shows, jugadores meetings, creation demonstrations, y even political rallies such as the protest against the shortage of products in 1916. In many occasions, the juego of cero was complied with by various other sports, such as fencing.

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But all these other activities were not enough for this structure to be profitable. In 1909 the journalist Rafael Solís created in los La corresponden de España newspaper:

“The game of pelota attracted the fans y tastes of ns people trasero in 1890…. Delaware that, the was simply a velocidad in the pan due to los rogue money connected that damages everything… in los Marqués del Riscal street, near the Castellana, over there was another building constructed for pelota, baptizing it with los name the Beti Jai, con an huge court, y luxurious stands y galleries. Not numerous games were played in ns building—there was alguno interest by then y almost alguno money y it is at this time not leased and without any type of kind of useful use.”3

The oblivion

Despite los fact that during that period there were various other frontons being built, ns uncovered Beti Jai was no longer los most convenient alternative to reap a juego of pelota. On height of that, los public had moved on come watching other gamings that compelled smaller courts, such together pala or pelota. Those games permitted for covered structures such as the Jai Alai constructed in 1922, un project by Joaquín Otamendi that had all the modern features of los time. Or the mil novecientos treinta y seis Recoletos fronton draft by Secundino Zuazo with the collaboration of ns engineer Eduardo Torroja, one of the most important buildings of ns so-called very first Spanish contemporary Movement (developed best before the Spanish cortés War). The building was spanned by dos overlapping barrel vaults, which offered reinforced concrete the was only eight centimeters thick. It was an extraordinary example of the technical expertise of ns engineer Torroja.

Meanwhile, los Beti Jai ongoing to adapt to new uses: as it appears in los Historic Municipal Archives of Madrid, in 1919 the Beti Jai widened its key door to build uno factory because that cars; in 1924 a permit was issued to construct garages; in 1943, it to be turned into a machinery storage; y in 1944, uno permit was issued to open up un shop for cast y papier-mâché work. The final known usar was uno garage and warehouse for carros that lasted till 1997, when los Frontón Jai Alai society bought that with ns intention of bringing trasero its original use.

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The recovery

Luckily, años of ignore did not fatally damage los building, and in 1977 the Architects’ association of la villa de madrid submitted ns proposal to explain Beti Jai a national Monument. In the normal Urban Development plan of Madrid, i m sorry took effect in 1997, ns building was labeled as uno monument, with los use y typology usual to ns public building.

In 2004, the city Hall of la capital española received uno preliminary job proposal by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rafael Moneo the proposed one aggressive treatment to turn los building into un hotel, where rooms were situated against the walls of the original court. Fortunately, the Institutional board of directors of Artistic y Natural historic Heritage (that contained members of los Architects’ association of Madrid, the ciudad Hall of Madrid, y the community of Madrid) rejected ns proposal together it negative affected ns intrinsic values of los building.

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In 2008, the los ciudadanos platform Salvemos el frontón Beti Jai (Let’s Save ns Beti Jai fronton) was formed to initiate a thorough and constant project to save ns building by publishing articles in the media, organizing lectures, y coordinating call for activity via social media. During that time, los building remained without un specific use y was illegally occupied by homeless people.

Finally, the legal proceedings to declare ns Beti Jai an main Asset of social Interest in los category that Monument began on might 18, 2010, and became reliable in early 2011. Los official ordinance, published on February 9, claimed that “the structure is a significant example of los architectural duality properties of the end of ns nineteenth century, where the historicist shapes, eclectic and neomudéjares, hide daring steel structures, creating uno rich spatial proposal with an area for los stands, light and elegant, where ns highlights are los curve façades and large roof.”

During that time, the city Hall of la capital española started los process to expropriate the building, successfully acquiring it in dos mil quince after paying seven million euros.

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A new interest

The attention in los building y its possible rehabilitation has increased constantly throughout the last few years. Besides los innumerable short articles published in newspapers y on t.v. About its state of disrepair, there have actually been multiple initiatives from ciudadano platforms, such as the previously pointed out Salvemos los frontón Beti Jai y Madrid: urbe y Patrimonio (Madrid: City y Heritage). Los documentary “Beti Jai: la Capilla Sixtina del la Pelota” (Beti Jai: los Sistine Chapel of the Pelota), command by ricardo Zubelzu, was additionally released last year.4

On December 9, 2015, the ciudad Hall of la villa de madrid finally initiated límite work to coast up the structure of the building with plans to comienzo its rehabilitation, an initial with a process involving citizen participation adhered to up con an international idea competition.

What is more problematic, however, is ns lack of assistance to the actual game of Basque pelota. One more documentary released in 2015, “Jai Alai Blues,”5 shows ns explosive rise in attention in the juego during the 1970s y early 1980s y the short-term madness the hit the US, con magnificent structures being built in Tampa y Daytona beach in Florida, unfortunately alguno longer standing. The deporte of jai alai was, at the time, one of ns most recognizable signs of the city of Miami.6 current articles, however, donar the current disinterest in los different modalities the pelota, con less than ciento ochenta professionals energetic today.7

The understanding of people readjust continuously, complying with trends that come y go. But it would certainly be regrettably to have to wait till we witness a resurgence in los interest in the game of Basque pelota to recoup this architectural gem desde oblivion and make it, as soon as again, uno shared room for ns citizens of Madrid.

Endnotes

1. Antonio Peña y Goñi, La Lidia, June 3, 1894. ↵

2. “Plano ese Madrid,” Instituto geografía Nacional,http://idehistoricamadrid.org/VComparador/compara.html. ↵

3. Ignacio Ramos Altamira, Frontones madrileños. Auge y caída de la cero vasca dentro de Madrid (Madrid: edición La Librería, 2013). ↵

4. “Beti-Jai: La capilla Sixtina ese la pelota,” artistic Metropol,http://artisticmetropol.es/web/beti-jai-la-capilla-sixtina-de-la-pelota/. ↵

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“Jai Alai Blues,” Atera Films, http://www.aterafilms.com/es/jai-alai-blues. ↵

6. “Miami Vice theme HD,” YouTube video, 0:55, post by AMB manufacturing TV, august 5, dos mil catorce https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEjXPY9jOx8. ↵

Carlos Copertone is a juicio who received his PhD from the university of Extremadura in Spain. He specializes in urbanism and regional planning y has taught at the blanco III university in Madrid. He is uno permanent contributor to the Spanish execution of Architectural Digest (AD España).www.carloscopertone.com |