Canadian born Frank Owen Gehry has been called by Vanity Fair “the most important architect of our age”. If you are looking for iconic building in cities around the world his contemporary roster is hugely impressive including the new home for The Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris (France) and his Deconstuctivist, primarily residential tower comprising 76 floors of stainless steel and glass, at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan (new York City) which upon completion in 2011 stood at 265 metres and was the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere.
Gehry’s is perhaps, curiously, best-known for his titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It was opened in 1997 and is already regarded as amongst the world’s most contemporary iconic structure. Built of titanium, glass, and limestone the museum features exhibitions organized by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and comprises elements from the permanent collection of the Guggenheim museums – please see our earlier post on the equally spectacular Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Plans for a new museum in Bilbao date to the late 1980s, when the Basque regional authorities began formulating a major redevelopment of this previously highly industrialised region. It was not until 1991, however, that the authorities proposed the idea for a local Guggenheim Museum to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
A site of 32,500 m2 by Nervión River was identified and three architects—Arata Isozaki, Coop Himmelb(l)au and Frank Gehry — were invited to submit conceptual designs.
The finished Museum was opened in 1997. The museum sits harmoniously alongside the River in the old industrial heart of the city. There are 11,000 m2 of exhibition space constituted of nineteen galleries. Ten classic galleries – the largest 30m x130m that is use as a temporary exhibition space – and nine irregularly shaped ones.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao represents a pinnacle in Gehry’s career. It is a classic blend of art and aesthetic architecture that is, arguably as compelling as the piece displayed within.
Like many of Spain’s autonomous regions, the Basque region has so much to offer from compelling scenery, to surfing, amazing art galleries, tapas called ‘pintxos’ and museums. Whilst many are drawn to the more familiar South and South Eastern coasts of Spain, I’d recommend a visit from the UK/near Europe for a long weekend trip to the Bilbao and Santander regions – but remember the weather can be a “bit Cornwall” so bring a raincoat!
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Images courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao