Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast
HomeLifestyleTravelPlaces To Visit

Why you should visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Why you should visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Even if you don't have time to venture inside, Frank O Gehry's The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is worth a visit for its glowing metallic exterior and ability to take on the colour of the changing light 

More famous than the art within, the radical Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao set new standards of design and put its home city on the international map. 

Various viewpoints 

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao birds eye view Credit: Arrazola, Mikel 

With its twisting curves and interlocking structures, all covered with a gleaming metallic skin, Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum seems to flex and stretch towards the sky. The shape of this titanium-clad building has been described as "frozen motion". Or is it like a huge metallic flower? Or a ship?

From each viewpoint, the architecture suggests a different interpretation. And in this riverside setting Californian architect Frank O Gehry has made the most of titanium’s reflective properties, most importantly, its ability to take on the colour of the changing light.

Go on a misty day and the museum seems to hover over the adjacent Nervión River. Whereas at other times, the building glows golden in the sun or appears covered in silvery scales. 

"The building glows golden in the sun or appears covered in silvery scales. "

Seen from the Nervión River, the museum's flowing shapes resemble an ocean liner. Guarded by Jeff Koons' flower Puppy structure, it makes a surprising sight set against Bilbao's narrow streets.

New approach to architecture 

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Credit: Peakpx 

In designing this contemporary icon, Gehry made no reference to previous architectural styles. These include the Neuer Zollhof in Dusseldorf, the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in London, and the Chiat/Day complex in Venice, California. 

Instead, curving and sharp-edged forms appear precariously balanced on top of one other, foreshadowing his design for the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle which opened three years later. 

"Gehry used three-dimensional digital modelling and software designed for the aviation industry to create the free-form curves"

But the building’s innovation goes beyond its radical form. Gehry and his team used three-dimensional digital modelling and software designed for the aviation industry to create the free-form curves and calculate the exact specifications for the titanium, limestone and glass parts used in the building's construction. 

Star of the show 

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Credit: Pxfuel 

The museum epitomises and celebrates the revitalisation of a decaying industrial city. In the 1980s, Bilbao’s industries were in decline. Rebounding in the mid-1990s, Bilbao made the transition from a post-industrial to a service economy. It was supported in this by what has become known as the "Guggenheim effect", where one unique building puts the whole city on the map.

The Guggenheim opened in 1997 with a collection that focused on artists working after the Second World War. Sunlight floods in through the glass roof of the atrium, which leads to galleries displaying works by artists such as Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Richard Serra

"It is the building itself—as much a work of art as anything found inside—that is the main attraction"

Since opening, the museum has had more than 10 million visitors. Yet it is the building itself—as much a work of art as anything found inside—that is the main attraction.

Banner credit: Flickr 

 

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit ipso.co.uk