Due to the rapid growth in digital storage technologies, Information Retrieval (IR) has gained a significant importance, both for academia and for the industry. However, very few proposals have been made for the creation of an environment capable of both providing useful IR services and acting as a workbench for the design, implementation, and research of new IR solutions. In this work, we propose IR-BASE, a basic object oriented framework for the integration of components, documentation and services, focused on the rapid development of prototypes for research and teaching. At its core, IRBASE consists of a set of base classes that provide a skeleton to create new IR components, a set of guidelines to ensure that the developed components are fully interoperable, and a component pool, where IR-BASE users can find implementations of all kinds of functionalities needed to build a full IR system, and to which IR-BASE users can contribute with their own implementations. IR-BASE is of interest not only to IR researchers and professionals, who want to rapidly develop prototypes to test new ideas, but also to teachers and students, who will have an easily configurable, modifiable and extendible set of components to act has a basis for learning, building and experimenting with current IR algorithms.