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The Santa María Cathedral Foundation embarks on a new era under the direction of Juan Ignacio Lasagabaster

His main goals are to complete the inclusion of the Basque Government on the Board of Trustees and draw up a strategic plan for 2009-2013

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 16th April 2008.- The Santa María Cathedral Foundation is embarking on a new stage following the appointment of Juan Ignacio Lasagabaster as Managing Director, taking over from Gonzalo Arroita. With in-depth knowledge of the project, on which he has worked as a technical director, Lasagabaster is taking over the reins at a significant point in the renovation project and just as the Basque Government is being brought in as a Foundation Trustee.
This morning, the President of the Board of Trustees of the Santa María Cathedral Foundation, Lorena López de Lacalle, witnessed the handover from Arroita to Lasagabaster, two people who have been linked to the renovation of the Cathedral since the Foundation was created in 2000. In close collaboration at the head of a large team and after eight years of success and intense work, they have made the Cathedral of Santa María a point of reference in terms of comprehensive monument restoration and one of the Basque Country’s main tourist attractions. Arroita is leaving the Foundation to join an agency that works to recover and promote the city’s Historic Quarter.

Prior to this appointment, Juan Ignacio Lasagabaster developed and directed the Restoration Management Plan from the mid 1990s onwards, and then became the technical director of the Foundation, in his capacity as Head of the Historic Heritage - Architecture Service with Álava’s Regional Council. One of his first commitments will be to manage the inclusion of the Basque Government in the Board of Trustees, whose members currently include Álava’s Regional Council, Vitoria Council and the Bishopric as its members, as approved at the latest meeting. Even though the Basque Government has been constantly collaborating to finance the research, publicity and education programmes launched, which have made fundamental aspects of the Cathedral restoration project viable, it will be integrating fully into the project in the near future. Furthermore, Lasagabaster hopes to create a new organisational structure in the Foundation which, among other things, will draw up a strategic plan for the period 2009-2013 with a view to finalising the architectural restoration of the Cathedral, and developing and consolidating its potential as a religious and cultural space with a life and personality of its own.

Crucial point in the restoration process

The new Managing Director is taking over at a crucial point in the restoration project. The plan that defines the functional and formal solutions to be applied to the monument and the surrounding area has already been drafted, and two of the main projects are underway: the restoration of the tower and the portico and the central naves. Therefore, the next stage will involve incorporating new spaces. A crucial process is also beginning to evaluate the scope and severity of the structural problems detected in the south arm of the transept caused by the archaeological digs. The result will determine the development of the consolidation project. Lasagabaster will also be responsible for developing proposals about how to use the new spaces created by archaeological digs inside the Cathedral, which could be used for museum/exhibition purposes, and guided tours. After passing through the magnificent space created underneath the portico, visitors end up in the tower, which offers an unbeatable vantage point over the city. Other spaces that could be recovered, such as the 18th Century sacristy, the Paternina chapel, the Santiago chapel and the adjoining houses in Calle Cuchillería will also make it possible to run different activities.

The new Managing Director is also one of the main exponents of the need to promote and apply the experience gained over these years in the management of the Cathedral of Santa María in other locations, and to take advantage of the intellectual cache of the model. In this respect, Lasagabaster hopes that the Foundation’s activity will continue to be the reference point for the ZAIN Research Centre, which emerged precisely from this experience.