Guggenheim Museum Bilbao: The Story of a City

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is an interesting museum where you can see outstanding examples of modern art like the other museums of the Guggenheim Foundation. But there is something else that makes it unique among other Guggenheim museums around the world. It is an exceptional example that proves what a deconstructivist approach to architecture can do when advanced technologies are combined. Moreover, it is also the heart of Bilbao. Before the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao was a somewhat discredited port city that longed for its old popular days. But before getting into these details, it is necessary to spend some time talking about deconstructivism and appreciating Frank Gehry’s architectural vision.

Deconstructivist Masterpiece: Guggenheim Bilbao

Deconstructivism, or deconstructive approach as it is more commonly known, may seem like a complete mess for those who have heard this style for the first time. People often misinterpret this deconstruction as aesthetic chaos arising from random gatherings rather than a systematic, conscious, and planned design process.

What Guggenheim Bilbao did best was to demonstrate that deconstructivism was not born out of chaos. You can consider deconstructivist structures with intricate and curved facades as if someone made them by throwing a pile of material into a corner. However, many such as the Guggenheim Bilbao are challenging structures that stand as a result of fair engineering calculations. As each part of most of them is custom made, such systems have huge budgets. Moreover, they contain both a deep architectural aesthetic and advanced engineering technologies from behind. That is why deconstructivism became widespread in the 20th century when the techniques and possibilities in construction started to expand.

The City That Comes To Life With Art

By the Spanish King’s request, The Guggenheim Bilbao Museum was built in 1997 in Bilbao, a port and commercial city in Spain. This structure aimed to add movement to the city of Bilbao and attract foreign tourists. The Guggenheim Bilbao Museum has been so successful in attracting tourists that Bilbao’s face has completely changed. The term “Bilbao effect,” which describes the effect of a single building in the whole city, entered the literature.

In the year following the opening of the museum, the city hosted around 4 million tourists. Today, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum is regarded as one of the largest museums in Spain and a must-see when visiting Spain.

Not an Ordinary Art Museum

The Guggenheim Bilbao Museum is not just an ordinary modern art museum with four walls. The Guggenheim Bilbao Museum was built in the central city where the airport and public transport routes, and hotels located on the river’s edge run through the city. Besides, Gehry built the museum in the middle of the other thirteen projects in the city. Thus, the Guggenheim Museum has become a cultural center and symbol of the city. However, the museum aimed to provide new public interaction spaces to this city in need of renewal.

In that context, Frank Gehry made all his genius speak and created a Guggenheim Bilbao Museum design with unimaginable complex forms. The exterior of the building consists of many curved titanium panels. These undulating panels represent water reflections from the river while allowing light to play pleasantly on the structure. However, Gehry didn’t only make titanium panels to look good on the eye. These panels, one of the most characteristic features of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, also help guide light and air intake to the interior galleries.

In the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, besides titanium, limestone and glass were also used. Designing this structure was quite challenging, even though it had a minimal material palette. Architect Frank Gehry designed the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum with a unique 3D design program called CATIA. The same program also helped Gehry do the Guggenheim Museum’s engineering calculations because standard CAD programs are quite insufficient in modeling such complex structures.

What Awaits You Inside the Guggenheim Museum?

The Guggenheim Bilbao Museum has 19 galleries and 11,000 square meters of exhibition space only in its interior. Moreover, some of these galleries are designed to continue the wavy surfaces seen on the exterior.

The total area of ​​the museum is 32,500 square meters. There are walking paths, parks, great viewing points where the museum meets the river and the bridge in this vast area. It is possible to see the Maman statue of the famous artist Louise Bourgeois at the Guggenheim Museum entrance. In the main gallery, there is Richard Serra’s permanent installation called Snake.

Apart from those, many modern artworks and period exhibitions in other galleries are also waiting to surprise the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum visitors.

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