Guggenheim Bilbao

Posted: January 17, 2007 in creativity
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Wikipedia describes the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao as a modern and contemporary art museum designed by Canadian/American architect Frank Gehry and located in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. It is built alongside the Nervion River, which runs through the city of Bilbao to the Atlantic Coast. The Guggenheim is one of several museums of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The museum features both permanent and visiting exhibits featuring works of both Spanish and international artists.

The Museum opened to the public in 1997 and was immediately vaulted to prominence as one of the world’s most spectacular buildings in the style of Deconstructivism. The museum’s design and construction serve as an object lesson in Frank Gehry’s style and method. Like much of Gehry’s other work, the structure consists of radically sculpted, organic contours. Sited as it is in a port town, it is intended to resemble a ship. Its brilliantly reflective panels resemble fish scales, echoing the other organic life (and, in particular, fish-like) forms that recur commonly in Gehry’s designs, as well as the river Nervion upon which the museum sits. Also in typical Gehry fashion, the building is uniquely a product of the period’s technology. Computer-aided design (CATIA) and visualizations were used heavily in the [Titanium] structure’s design.

Computer simulations of the building’s structure made it feasible to build shapes that architects of earlier eras would have found nearly impossible to construct. Also important is that while the museum is a spectacular monument from the river, on street level it is quite modest and does not overwhelm its traditional surroundings. The museum was opened as part of a revitalization effort for the city of Bilbao and for the Basque Country. Almost immediately after its opening, the Guggenheim Bilbao became a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe. It was widely credited with ‘putting Bilbao on the map’ and subsequently inspired other structures of similar design across the globe, such as the Cerritos Millennium Library in Cerritos, California.

The building was constructed on time and budget, which is rare for architecture of this type. In an interview in Harvard Design Magazine Gehry explained how he did it. First, he ensured that what he calls the ‘organization of the artist’ prevailed during construction, in order to prevent political and business interests from interfering with the design. Second, he made sure he had a detailed and realistic cost estimate before proceeding. Third, he used CATIA and close collaboration with the individual building trades to control costs during construction.

As already said, some people think that the Guggenheim Museum put Bilbao on the tourism map; the last picture below certainly shows its popularity. The Guggenheim is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 8pm. A good time to visit the museum seems to be at 6 or 7pm when there’s almost no queue (and hopefully less people inside as well).

(All pictures being used in this post are available in the public domain except two which have been inserted courtesy of virtourist.com)

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