Social metabolism of Amorebieta-Etxano

As the city of Amorebieta-Extano (Basque Country) prepares a new urban master plan, this project proposes social metabolism sustainability analysis of the city to be incorporated into the new urban model with direct citizen engagement.

The town of Amorebieta-Etxano is located in a valley with a contrasting landscape: an industry currently largely involved in the heavy automobile and metals industry is located at the bottom of the valley and a rural village is scattered along the edges of the valley.The Ibaizábal River, a tributary of the Nervión River in Bilbao, runs through the center of the valley. At the bottom of the valley runs the Ibaizábal River, a tributary of the Nervión in Bilbao. Apart from the main urban area, the landscape changed drastically due to the industrial revolution, often characterized by its disconnected territory and its intense pollution. On the other hand, a small village remains on the slopes of the valley with a wide array of agricultural and livestock production and is currently in crisis due to the abandonment of the countryside and forest activity. The project was initiated by a local rural entity to address the unsustainable management of resources of its territory, which was originally planned to benefit developer interests. This poor management generated both socially and environmentally negative impacts and deepened the schism between the two landscapes. The first step was to use participatory research to evaluate the existing strengths and weaknesses of the area’s sustainability and its potential for activating new and self-managed strategies in the future.

The diagnostic process was coordinated by a team of experts in sustainability and community planning, training sessions were utilized, and dialogue was held between local stakeholders. Fieldwork, interviews, informative lectures, and group dynamics were used to explore the five strategic areas along three different timelines (past, present, and future):

Water: Management in rural areas as a key to avoid flooding and water pollution in the urban area

Baserri (country house): A basic housing unit to set a new ecological production model

Energy: Management and local production as a tool to reactivate the territory

Forest: A key element for the future of Basque territory

People: Bearers of traditional management knowledge and key to the future

Understanding these five areas strengthens the vision for the future of the city as it transitions into a resilient and sustainable model of closed cycles and self-sufficiency..
Recuperant així la relació de la ciutat amb la muntanya i les seves dinàmiques materials, reconnectant-se amb el territori i revalorant-ne la identitat social i cultural.

This process helps to recover the relationship of the city with the mountains and its material dynamics, thus, reconnecting its territory and revaluing the social and cultural identity. Despite its economic crisis, the social metabolism analysis developed in the town of Amorebieta-Etxano revealed that elements and social dynamics of the traditional productive model are still present and the commitment of politicians to focus on sustainability helped to develop the project as well. This proposed methodology can be replicated and applied to other territories in order to generate cities in accordance with the social and environmental values of this projects.


Cíclica [space·community·ecology], Albert Cuchí (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya), Anna Pagés (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya), Eneka Quintana, Urtza Uriarte


Ajuntament d’Amorebieta-Etxano

Project year



1 de December de 2015


Energy cultures, Resources, Territory and landscape