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Guggenheim – Bilbao, Spain

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is just one of the many international Guggenheim modern art museums dotted around the world.  It is, however, the newest and quite possibly the most prominent of all modern art museums in the world since its completion in 1997.  The structure of the museum itself is a piece of art, and it is at the core of Bilbao, Spain’s major river district revitalization project.  If you’re traveling through southern Spain, you MUST stop here to see this wonder of the modern world.

When the famous architect, Frank Gehry, was commissioned to design a new Guggenheim museum in the heart of Bilbao’s new revitalization project, the art world held its breath.  The site was situated on banks of the Nervion River in downtown Bilbao.  For years the city had been working to make effective use of the River district but it was plagued with problems like the serious height difference between the lower river and the higher downtown area.  Eventually they agreed with the Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation to commission a new museum.

From the start, Frank Gehry’s idea was extremely ambitious.  Known for his radically sculpted surfaces and organic contours, his design would not disappoint.  You won’t find a single flat surface in the whole building.  He used heavy computer aided design in conjunction with the latest in civil engineering to produce a structure that looks impossible to build.  The entire exterior is treated with titanium plating, giving the whole building a brilliant but soft shine.

The interior features ample open space in all directions, with vaulting ceilings, massive windows, and tons of display space. 

As part of the greater revitalization project in downtown Bilbao, the Guggenheim achieves exactly what it was meant to do.  It is at once beautiful and prestigious, but it does not overwhelm the other buildings in the area.  Since it is set on lower land on the river, its immense size is not so apparent next to the older historic buildings in the city.