The museum built by the Californian Frank Gehry along the estuary of the Nervión River is a habitable sculpture, a cultural franchise and a political exorcism. So many and so diverse are the circumstances surrounding the commission of the project and the expectations aroused by its construction that it is impossible to separate them from strictly architectural considerations. The Guggenheim Bilbao has become the powerful emblem of a troubled city that endeavors to transform itself.
Luis Fernández-Galiano Tempest of Titanium
Luis Fernández-Galiano Frank Gehry, a Conversation
Joseba Zulaika Architectural 'Potlatch'
Javier Mozas Bilbao, 'Collage-City'
Buildings: Projects and Realizations
From Form to Matter. The Guggenheim Museum presented every kind of technical and organizational challenge. Commissioned in New York, designed in Los Angeles and erected in Bilbao with the participation of firms from all over the world, Gehry's building is now a reality thanks to a process that has required maximum coordination between the parties involved. César Caicoya Formal Agreements From Project to ConstructionJoan Sabaté Transforming Matter Free Form, Rational Technique
Symbolical Dimensions. Many agree that Gehry's architecture has found its most appropriate setting in the industrial context of the Bilbao estuary, and among the interpretations that have been put forward regarding the shaken shapes of the Guggenheim Museum, the most widely diffused is that which describes it as a metaphor of the Basque Country's current situation.
Juan Antonio Ramírez Bilbao-Babel The Frozen Explosion
Twelve Architects and a Sculptor
Summary Judgments Guggenheim Dimensions
Books, Exhibitions, Personalities
Art / Culture
Cultural Alibis. The latest episode of the Guggenheim Foundation's agitated history could be entitled 'Museum Franchise', while Picasso's mythic Guernica has been turned into an object of political claims.
Guillermo Solana The Guggenheim Galaxy
Antonio Muñoz Molina A Balkan Past
Engineering Arts. Bilbao builds new bridges as part of its process of urban renewal, and an exhibition at the Pompidou Center in Paris contemplates great engineering works from an artistic viewpoint.
Antonio Román Bridges over the Nervión
Jean-Claude Garcias The Art of the Engineer
Modern Sources. Critical reflection on the great themes of modernity continues, with a proliferation of monographs on figures who helped define, promote and consolidate the modern project.
Focho's Cartoon Eero Saarinen
Various Authors Books
Interiors, Desing, Construction Technique / Style
Museums of Europe. The expressive capacity of architecture is clearly manifested in three recent European museums: Libeskind's lightning ray in Berlin symbolizes the Jewish Holocaust; Piano's prow in Amsterdam proclaims its integration into a port environment; and Zamp Kelp's spiral in Mettmann represents the evolution of the human species.
Daniel Libeskind Jewish Museum, Berlin
Renzo Piano Science Museum, Amsterdam
Günter Zamp Kelp Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann
To close, a complete catalog of systems and products for the installation of curtain walls; and an essay by Félix de Azúa about the bitter controversy that the demand for the transfer of the Guernica has stirred: according to the writer, nothing can better exemplify the transformation suffered in this century by works of art, now mere commodities of an economy of leisure.
Products Curtain WallsEnglish Summary Guggenheim BilbaoFélix de Azúa Pikasso?
The museum of Bilbao is built with titanium and ink. Murmuring rivers of mediatic mayhem converge in its maelstrom, and its metalic swell beats against and confounds the waters of controversy. Gehry, Guggenheim, Guernica: the latest work of a great Californian architect, the first big branch of a New York museum, and the uncertain voyage of a huge and mythical canvas. The three questions get entangled on the bank of the river, around the agitated shapes of a construction that is at once an inhabitable sculpture, a cultural franchise and a political exorcism.
As sculptural architecture, Gehry's work is masterful in its urban insertion, admirable in its modeling, and irreproachable in its materialization. Its appropriation of the place is so powerful as to rule out all alternative solutions; the stormy volumes and expressionist interiors are so unexpected and dramatic that they capture the retina of the spectator; and the technical and organizational feat of its construction cannot fail to impress. It is the architect's finest mature work, and an emblematic representation of the scenographies of art in the society of spectacle.
As a franchise museum, the Guggenheim is an unprecedented cultural experiment, based on a deplorable agreement and expected to yield ambiguous economic fruits. That the biggest Spanish public effort in the field of art should be a branch of an American museum borders on the grotesque; the terms of the agreement are so unfavorable for the Basques that it can only be understood as a consequence of haste and ignorance; and the profits to be reaped from new investments and tourism depend so much on Basque political stability t hat they cannot easily be gauged.
As a gesture of exorcism, the insistence on moving the Guernica exposes the indefinition of artistic objectives, reveals the confusion of politicians, and shows the sacred and totemic nature of the venture. The repeated demand for Picasso's painting conceals the vacuity of the art collection project; lays bare the demagoguery of those who interpret history from the petty prism of toponymy; and throws light on the precocious mythical status of the museum, which needs to consecrate itself as a cult place guarding a relique that both congregates and redeems a faithful nation.
Sculpture, franchise and exorcism, this exultant eruption is a sign of crisis and hope which takes root with floral impetus beside a bridge, and sticks into the water tentacles of titanium. While doing what he always does, Gehry has timidly and tensely played the tune of an unhappy land or moment: his explosive forms simultaneously express violence and life. Titanic but not doomed like the Titanic, this sober colossus rejects the ship's fate and hesitates, uncertain, under the old moon of Bilbao, minted in titanium on a sky of ink.