The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is celebrating its 25th anniversary this October 2022. Set on the edge of the Nervión River in the Basque Country, Spain, Frank Gehry's Guggenheim boosted the city's economy with its astounding success and changed the museum's role in city development. Twenty-five years on, the Bilbao Effect continues to challenge assumptions about urban transformations and inspires the construction of iconic pieces of architecture that uplift cities' status, calling investors and visitors.
Bilbao Effect: The Latest Architecture and News
Urban planning is often based on the assumption of ongoing demographic and economic growth, but as some environments face urban shrinkage, a new array of strategies comes into play. The shrinking city phenomenon is a process of urban decline with complex causes ranging from deindustrialization, internal migration, population decline, or depletion of natural resources. Referencing the existing research on the topic, the following showcases approaches to this phenomenon in different urban environments, highlighting the need to develop new urban design frameworks to address the growing challenge.
The organisers behind The Next Helsinki, a competition masterminded by architect and critic Michael Sorkin, have announced that they have received over 200 international entries. Launched as an alternative to the controversial Guggenheim Helsinki project, the competition called upon architects, urbanists, artists, and environmentalists to imagine how Helsinki and the South Harbour site allotted to the proposed museum could be transformed for the maximum benefit of the city’s residents and visitors.
The "Bilbao effect" was once viewed as the savior of the other cities; a way for post-industrial cities in the 1990s and 2000s to not only replace their economic reliance on failing industry with tourism, but to reinvent themselves as capitals of High Culture, enriching both body and soul. This has long since ceased to be the case, and many now see it instead as an ironic monument to hubris. But while architecture in the west is attempting to find a viable successor, rapidly expanding economies in Asia and South East Asia seem poised to embark on a new wave of architectural and cultural flourishes designed to attract tourists and Thai Baht.
Aside from attracting a huge level of media interest, the record-breaking competition to design the Guggenheim Museum's planned outpost in Helsinki also generated a significant level of criticism - not least from Michael Sorkin and his collaborators, who launched a counter-competition seeking alternative suggestions for how the site could be used. In this article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as "'We Mean to Be Provocateurs': Michael Sorkin on the Next Helsinki Competition," Zachary Edelson interviews Sorkin on his reaction to the Guggenheim's shortlist, his hopes for his own competition, and the critical role that museums play in the worlds of both art and architecture.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is famous for its Fifth Avenue museum, but its 1997 Frank Gehry-designed Bilbao outpost famously catapulted its small Basque host city to new levels of international renown. The city’s tourism revenue quickly helped recoup the museum’s extensive costs: $100 million for design and construction, subsidies towards a $12 million annual budget, $50 million for an acquisitions fund, and $20 million to the Guggenheim for its name, curatorial services, and the use of parts of its collection. Within three years, visitors’ spending had garnered $110 million and by 2013 more than 1 million had entered the gleaming metallic structure. Many have tried to replicate Bilbao’s success but opposition against such massive expenditures always looms. In this case, it has manifested in a rival competition led by New York-based architect and writer Michael Sorkin and titled The Next Helsinki.
In Sydney, a recent discussion about "Cultural Precinct Planning" hosted by the City Government has raised important questions about how the city can compete in the global cultural arms race. However, Sara Anne Best thinks it raised all the wrong questions. Originally posted on Australian Design Review as "Cultural Ribbon or Coastal Connections" this article argues that Sydney, with a culture and tourism industry so focused on outdoor leisure, could find a more unique way of attracting attention which includes the wider metropolitan area more than the usual city centre cultural hub, asking: "With three of the city’s iconic beaches currently undergoing renewal, what is the role of the seaside CBD in the context of Sydney’s cultural identity?" Find out the answer after the break.