Bilbao Guggenheim Museum


Designed by Frank O. Gehry in Bilbao, Spain, in 1997, with about 30 thousand cubic meters of concrete, mixed with III-2/35 SR-MR cement, produced by Cementos Rezola of Arrigoriaga (Spanish subsidiary of Italcementi Group).

GEHRY_Guggenheim Bilbao_schizzo_ofiAn absolute icon of contemporary architecture, the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum sums up in itself merits and ambiguities of the new architectural languages in the years between the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the Third Millennium. While liberating his architecture from the constraints of Contextualism, Gehry introduces the hybridization as a methodological approach to a subtle conceptual alchemy: transforming the building from a purely functional structure to a mythopoeic object and creating amazing and alienating places.

He is the author of urban mythologies amplified onto a global scale through an effective mass media system. Over time, his works define a global network of structures based on a single model adaptable to many different contexts, thus implementing a one-alphabet language yet capable of generating complex narratives and endless emotions. It is clear that the traditional concept of genius loci should be completely reformulated since the museum complex not only rejects any contextual influence but also creates a completely new urban narrative. It is not the surroundings that accept the architectural work but it is the architecture itself that selects those urban and environmental elements to enter into an empathetic relation, as with the Nervion river whose waters look like an additional surface made of the same titanium coating the fine “leaves in the wind” which envelops the museum.

As a work dedicated to contemporary art, the complex is a lively space, capable of creating a constantly evolving urban vision through a three-dimensional screen—with not even a small flat surface—which selects the weather, the endless colors of the cars parked around, the natural alternation between night and day, and whatever else happens in the surroundings worth to be remembered.

The highly distinctive force of the Guggenheim is also displayed by its construction modalities. The titanium plates covering the architectural volumes are approximately thirty thousand, treated to last one hundred years: the raw material comes from Australia and is fused in France while the sheets are laminated in Pittsburgh and pickled in Britain. The complex in Bilbao exceeds the boundaries of modern architecture highlighting the advances in technology in a perfect synthesis, which combines rigorous engineering and creative freedom, behind which lurk refined structural calculations. Cementos Rezola of Arrigoriaga (Spanish subsidiary of Italcementi Group) provided all the concrete for this project.

DESCRIPTION SHEET – Bilbao Guggenheim Museum
Client: Government of the Basque Province of Biscay, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Location: Avenida Abandoibarra, 2,
Bilbao 48001, Spain
Architect: Gehry Partners, LLP
12541 Beatrice Street
Los Angeles, CA 90066, Usa
Site characteristics: The project is part of a strategic renovation plan for the city of Bilbao, begun in 1989 and including a convention center, an international airport, a new subway and the redeveloping of the Nervion riverfront. It was the riverfront degradation and marginalization the very starting point of the urban renewal definition resulting in the construction of the Guggenheim Museum along the banks of the Nervion, in an abandoned industrial area. So, Gehry’s work ended up becoming the symbol the entire process of revitalization of the metropolitan area.
Program: Galleries, library, auditorium, offices, services (cafeteria, restaurant, bookshop…).
  Construction system: As an example of sculptural architecture, the building features distorted and oblique volumes, declined through a varied palette of materials. The supporting frame consists of a cage of steel pipes, resting on an articulated reinforced concrete base. The interior space is almost completely free of vertical supports in a succession of concave and convex spaces, crossed by flying bridges, creating a visual continuity of strong impact.
Site dimension: 24.000 mq
Materials: 33,000 titanium sheets, 27,200 limestone slabs, 2,500 thermal glass double glazed sheets, 30 thousand cubic meters of concrete.
Invitational Competition: 1991
(Gehry, Arata Isozaki, Coop Himmelb(l)au to represent the three continents America, Asia, Europe)
Construction specifications: Completed February 1993
Start of works: October 23, 1993
End of works: October 1997
Notes: The total cost of the project was 24 billion pesetas (over 144 million euro).


Frank O. Gehry


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