Earlier this year, I got an email out of the blue asking me to help with an editorial project. As I read it, I had to rub my eyes. Wallpaper*? Phaidon? Book? What? Yes! Sign me up. And that is how a couple-month-long process of visiting Basque Country's most high-design spots and learning all about them began. The end goal was to update Phaidon's Wallpaper* City Guide Bilbao 2012 guidebook to add new sights and to include San Sebastián, reflecting this tiny town's growing importance on the world stage.
My favorite part of this project was bringing to light a lesser-tauted part of the Basque Country, the unique and often cutting-edge design in the restaurant and tourism industry. From museums to country homes to Michelin star restaurants, Basque Country has its own aesthetic that I think runs through the book.
The Wallpaper* series is more about high design than food, so I found myself discovering restaurants I may have never visited, as well as some interesting characters, like the Begiristains, the family behind the amazing Casas de Ea Astei. I also realized that San Sebastián at its heart is still a village, with very few high-design restaurants or hotels, which in reality is part of its charm. Bilbao is much more design-driven, which makes sense, due to the Guggenheim effect, a term coined in the city that is now used worldwide to describe what happens when a big, shiny tourist attraction opens.
The Wallpaper City Guide: Bilbao/San Sebastián is available online in the Phaidon shop. It's also available as an iOs app for iPhone and iPad.