Legazpi, 45 km south-west of San Sebastian, is the main town of the Urola-Garaia region. Ironmaking has a long history in the area, but the industry was of particular importance from the mid-nineteenth century until the contraction of the Patricio Echeverria company in the 1970s and 80s which caused a social crisis in the area.
The LENBUR (i.e. Legazpi: Natura eta Burdina) project originated with an initiative of Legazpi Town Council in 1994, and the foundation was formally constituted in 1997. Its objectives are to promote research into the industrial and ecological heritage of the region, and to promote its interpretation, both to those who live there and to visitors. From its headquarters in the Bikuna Palace, a seventeenth century building that was once the home of the Bikuna family, who had substantial interests in the local ironworks, the foundation organises meetings, exhibitions and archaeological excavations.
The trust runs several museums, it’s principal permanent display is the Basque Iron Museum housed in a former iron foundry in Legazpi, where the history of iron is interpreted in technological, ecological and social contexts. The museum is also the starting point for several trails in the Iron Valley which guide visitors to the monuments associated with ironworking, including, in the nearby Mirandaola Park, a pelota court with iron walls. At the ironworks of Mirandaola the blacksmiths, who wear special clothes from the 16th century, make the machinery work, and the water makes the enormous bellows move together with the giant hammer which strikes a piece of red-hot iron.
With the industrialisation the ironworks give way to the big factories. In a one-of-a-kind place, an old factory has been reconverted into a museum which presents the relationship between art and industry as shown by the hand of Eduardo Chillida, one of the most famous sculptors in the Basque Country.