If you love art, design and architecture, the Guggenheim museum of Bilbao is a must see! This architectural treasure is housing artworks from the most famous contemporanean artists in the world. Inaugurated by the King of Spain in 1997, the building is one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture. For once, critics, academics, and the general public were all united about the realization and the success of the project. This building is a stepping stone for Frank Ghery’s career and gave him international recognition. He is so famous that he has even been featured many times in the popular American TV series The Simpsons!
Why did they build that building in Bilbao?
Already established in New York, the Guggenheim Foundation wanted to be in Europe. The port city was in decline and Franck Gehry wanted to give back all the Bilbao’s splendor of the past by designing a unique building with a strong personality. It works very well!
The Basque Government decided to invest to revive the image of the city and stimulate the economy of the region. By building the monument on a former industrial wasteland, he wants to restore the beauty of the city. Thanks to this monument, Bilbao has become an international tourist city and attracts more than a million of visitors every year. The impact is so strong that the city has become an open-air museum, with contemporary buildings of provocative architecture. Daniel Buren, Santiago Calatrava, Philippe Starck, César Pelli and many others have their footprint in Bilbao. It’s “the Guggenheim effect”.
First impression – the exterior:
The museum is the first thing you will see when you go in Bilbao from the airport (designed by S. Calatrava). Arriving from the Puente de la Salve, passing through a great red gate (“l’Arc Rouge” by D. Buren), you will discover the spectacular museum. I won’t forget this majestic entrance!
I spent hours walking around and trying to understand the deconstructivist architecture of the monumental sculpture. Some people say it looks like a big fish, personnaly it reminds me a big sailboat.
It is Massive!
Below the town level, Frank Gehry wanted to play with monumentality and created an external volume almost twice bigger as the interior. In order to give you an idea of the scale, I’ve integrated people in my framing with a minimalistic approach.
The titan skin
The 33,000 folded and slightly curled leaves accentuate the movement and capture the light. Frank Ghery spent a lot of time trying to understand the light of Bilbao. The steel he wanted to use at the beginning didn’t match with the light of the city because the metal seemed really sad with the gray sky. Titanium could match perfectly with this light. If you visit Bilbao, I advise you to go to the museum at different times of the day to catch the different lights on the facades.
The Interior: where is the logic?
How does it work? I wouldn’t be in Frank Ghery’s head. It is a complete mess that creates a perfect and harmonious whole. In the atrium, metal, glass, stone and white concrete are connecting 20 galleries rooms distributed around, connected by footbridges and stairs. However, it is impossible to take pictures inside the rooms because it is just forbidden by the rooms of the museum, and security guards will be here to remind you that 😠.
In my opinion, the temporary exhibitions were much more attractive than the permanent collection. Although there are some notable works like the The Matter of Time (Richard Serra), a giant installation made of rusted metal sheets in the form of spirals, ellipses and passageways.
Jenny Holzer’s eye catching work is also another prominent work of art, panels of luminous diodes spell out spanish texts.
Another illustrious animal is the Louise Bourgeois’s giant spider named “Maman”. All Netflix addict knows about the series “Stranger Things”.
Mirador de Artxanda
The trip to the mirador is an experience I recommend to do in Bilbao. Once on the top of the mountain, you have a great view on the city and you can really realize that it is not only the simple conception of a building, the architect also planned an urban renewal. The river banks are now a long promenade along the Nervion river.
What a great view for a sunset !