Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

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The oldest building still in use in the world is the Pantheon in Rome. It was built in 117 AD, nearly 2000 years old. It must look a bit odd when it was first completed. The building is round and has an enormous dome on top. Looking at its exterior now it may not look much, but it is still one of the most admired buildings in the world, mainly because of its age and the construction technique used in the building. I wonder if any of our iconic buildings today would survive as long. Would they still appear as aesthetically pleasing as they are now?   The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is such an iconic building today. It has become the landmark of the city of Bilbao. Just like the Tower Bridge to London, the Statue of Liberty to New York, and the Eiffel Tower to Paris. In this sense the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao is a big success. Nobody can take that away. Not only has the building shown us the use of new construction technique and the use of new material, it was also completed on time and within budget. I was not sure how to look at the building before my visit. But after looking at it, I think it is a great building and a piece of architectural art.  

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First created 5 Oct 2013. Version 1.0 - 1 Nov 2013. Jerry Tse. London . Guggenheim Museum All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. Bilbao, Spain

Architecture:

Architecture Architecture is the most functional of all the arts. The building must fulfil its purpose. Designs and constructions are based on engineering and material sciences. Architects are highly skill professionals. (Above) The Sydney Opera House was completed in 1973. Computer was used in its designs.

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Architecture Prestigious architecture has always been used as a statement of wealth and power. Today countries are competing to build the tallest building in the world, to announce that they have arrived. The above is Beijing’s Bird Nest stadium, it is the China’s declaration that the country has entered a new era.

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Spanish Architecture In early 1900s, Antoni Gaudi’s began to take a radical approach to architecture, in Barcelona. He saw architecture as art. So Spain is familiar with the idea of architectural art. The above is his most well-known building, Sagrada Familia, the cathedral of Barcelona. It was finished only in November 2010.

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Spanish Architecture In recent years Spanish architecture was noted for the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the City of Arts and Sciences) designed by Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela, in Valencia. It was inaugurated in 1998 with the opening of L’Hemisferic (The Hemisphere).

The Revival of Bilbao:

The Revival of Bilbao Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country. It has a population close to a million. In 1980s its industrial base declined rapidly, leading to high unemployment and a shrinking population. In the 1990s, a series of construction projects were launched to transform city to a service economy. spearheaded by the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, a new transport system, the Conference Centre, the Concert Hall, the Iberdrola tower etc.

Guggenheim:

Guggenheim The Basque government put up US$100m for the construction of the Guggenheim Museum building and invited the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation to maintain and to run the museum. At the time, the foundation already had a museum in New York, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (see above) and another museum in Venice.

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The Architect The architect of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum is Frank Gehry, who was born in 1929 in Toronto. He is responsible for many prestige buildings in the world, including the Los Angeles Disney Concert Hall (2003) and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2004). Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

The Plan:

The Plan The plan was to build a museum comprised of mostly curved surfaces. Some said it cannot be built. The design was specified by a 3D computer model, with some 56,000 reference points. The model was used by numerically controlled machines for the production of building components. It was also used to calculate the structural loadings and stresses on the building. The use of the 3D computer model was a critical factor in the construction of such a monumental building sculpture. The building is one of the most admired architecture in last decade of the 20C. It was inaugurated in 1997. Above is a sketch of the museum by the architect Gehry

Construction:

Construction The museum is built on the site of a shipyard. The main building is made up of a massive supporting steel structure with a thin skin of titanium tiles, protecting the building from its environment.

Construction:

Construction The steel girders come in many shapes and sizes. The 3D computer model was used to specified each girder, to be made individually.

Construction:

Construction The steel structure is made up of three structural frames. The primarily steel girder frame supports the weight of the building. The secondary sheathing frame is fixed onto the steel girders, defining and support the curved surfaces. Lastly the tertiary frame is used for fixing the titanium tiles to form the skin for the building.

Construction:

Construction The titanium tiles are used to cover the building. Titanium is very strong and very resistance to corrosion. Bilbao was one of the most polluted city in Europe in the 1980s.

Construction:

Titanium resistance to corrosion is due to a thin layer of titanium oxide formed on the surface of the metal, which also gives the building its golden colour. Above is the reflections on the building in the rain. Construction

Construction:

Titanium reflects light like a soap bubble giving it a range of rainbow colours. Because of its curve surfaces, the building is very effective in catching the natural light or the sunlight. Above is the reflections on the building on a sunny morning with a clear sky. Construction Credit Ben Ho

Construction:

The interlocking titanium tiles are fixed onto the steel frame by screws, through a layer bitumen rubber sealant, which ensures the building is waterproof. Construction

Construction:

Construction The top half of the building is mostly empty spaces, allowing a decorative sculptural shape to put on top of the building.

Construction:

Construction The red line roughly divides the utilised space below and the empty spaces above.

Construction:

Construction Giant vents were constructed to allow natural light to illuminate the interior and for ventilations.

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Construction The museum is situated next to the river.

Atrium:

Atrium The titanium part of the building is windowless. This contrasts with the large glass curtain walling of the atrium.

Atrium:

Atrium Large glass wall allowing natural light to enter the building.

Atrium:

Atrium The atrium is a crucial element of the building. It connects the different galleries together. It is an area half way between the exterior and the interior of the museum.

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Hanging passage ways link the upper galleries, recreating a vision of a future metropolis. Atrium

Atrium:

A hanging passage way links the upper galleries and provides an aerial view of the city. Atrium

Atrium:

Empty spaces above the galleries. Atrium

Atrium:

Flat surfaces and straight lines like the lift shaft is hidden under covers of curved surfaces. Atrium

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Roof lights are used extensively for natural lights to enter the galleries. Roof lights

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Top right is the ‘Sail’ producing the illusion of movement, according to Gehry. Exterior

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The ramp allows public access to the river. Previously this area was a dock. Exterior

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Exhibit Standing outside the museum is Jeff Koons’ Floral Puppy. Originally a temporary feature, the exhibit’s popularity with the residents earned it a permanent place.

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Exhibit The Floral Puppy changes its costume with seasons. There is an internal system that irrigates the flowers.

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Exhibit This is the largest gallery which houses Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time (1994-2005), which are made from 2 inches thick free standing steel plates.

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Exhibit Walking through Richard Serra’s sculpture the Snake.

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Exhibit This is the biggest image in the museum. It is called Waking (1984) by Gilbert and George. It is a photo piece.

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Exhibit On the patio outside the atrium is the sculpture, Tulips by Jeff Konns.

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Exhibit A Column of Silver Spheres by the Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor who also designed the Arcelor Mittal Orbit at the Olympics park London.

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Exhibit A column of Silver Spheres and golden titanium tiles.

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Exhibit The 10m high sculpture called Maman (Mother), a spider looking sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, who sees the spider as a symbol for her mother. Within the spider, it carries 26 marbles eggs.

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Exhibit An exhibition at the museum called From Object to Sculpture, showing the work of the French artist Antoni Tapies.

The Guggenheim effect:

The Guggenheim effect However, some critics said the economic benefits derived from the building of the museum is to the city is not so clear. Effect Monumental building sculpture of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum is now a landmark of the city. It has elevated Bilbao to a modern world city. It is now 16 years since the museum was opened. It has help the re-launched of the Bilbao, as a service economy. The population decline has been halted and civil pride has been restored.

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Effect Some even denounced the museum as cultural imperialism, a domineering structure failing, an interruption on the landscape. The project fails miserably as a public space, missing a significant opportunity to celebrate and support the cultural and community life. Credit Ben Ho

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The museum is a cathedral of contemporary art. Most people associate Bilbao with the Guggenheim Museum, but not many would be able to name its exhibits. It is the case of the containers is more interesting and more well-known than its contents. You can say the same thing about Frank Lloyd Wright’s building in New York too. For me the building itself is a work of art. Effect

Airport:

We went to Bilbao mainly because it has an international airport and it is a convenient place to pickup a hired car. But I am very glad that I visited the extraordinary architecture of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum. The airport was one of the projects to re-launched the city. Airport

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