The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this month, has been hailed as a pinnacle of technological progress since its October 1997 opening. While the use of the modeling software CATIA (Computer Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application) was without question groundbreaking, some of the greatest moments of ingenuity during the building’s design and construction were distinctly low-tech. Developed between 1991 and 1997, the curved and angular titanium-clad building was conceived at the turning point between analog and digital practice. This profound shift enveloped and permeated every aspect of the project, from the design process and construction techniques to the methods of communication technology put to use.
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao: The Latest Architecture and News
In It’s A Wonderful Life the film’s protagonist George Bailey, facing a crisis of faith, is visited by his guardian angel, and shown an alternate reality where he doesn’t exist. The experience gives meaning to George’s life, showing him his own importance to others. With the increasing scale of design competitions these days, architectural “could-have-beens” are piling up in record numbers, and just as George Bailey's sense of self was restored by seeing his alternate reality, hypothesizing about alternative outcomes in architecture is a chance to reflect on our current architectural moment.
Today marks the one-year-anniversary of the opening of Phase 3 of the High Line. While New Yorkers and urbanists the world over have lauded the success of this industrial-utility-turned-urban-oasis, the park and the slew of other urban improvements it has inspired almost happened very differently. Although we have come to know and love the High Line of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations, in the original ideas competition four finalists were chosen and the alternatives show stark contrasts in how things might have shaped up.
On this key date for one of the most crucial designs of this generation, we decided to look back at some of the most important competitions of the last century to see how things might have been different.
The Guggenheim is planning a new museum in Helsinki. The site is in the heart of the city, next door to the late 19th Century market hall and open-air market place, two minutes from Helsinki Cathedral. The project, therefore, has great landmark potential for the city. And many Finns are lured by this very potential, wanting to increase tourism and put their capital city more evidently on the world map. There has also been discussion in the country’s main newspaper Helsingin Sanomat about how Finns should welcome a more joyous and fun architecture.
Destination-creation and architecture as entertainment are certainly strong themes of our times. They were treated with great artistry by Frank Gehry with the Bilbao Guggenheim, opened in 1997. However, it’s important to remember that the Bilbao Guggenheim might best be considered a spectacular one-off. Mayors, politicians and world leaders have since sought, in perhaps too facile a way, to rebrand their cities and countries with iconic landmarks. There has been much talk of making cities “world class” through such architectural gestures, and yet much of this marketer’s fodder is wholly out of touch with what makes great architecture great.
For Peter Aspden's first encounter with the architect of the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, Frank Gehry did not "exude sweetness." "You are not going to call me a [...] ‘star-chitect’? I hate that." In a candid interview with the Financial Times, Gehry discusses the problem of being branded for beginning the Bilbao Effect in spite of the fact that he insists that "you can’t escape your signature." Gehry talks at length about Facebook's latest headquarters and, in particular, his relationship with his client, Mark Zuckerberg. Read the full interview here.
In this article, which originally appeared in Metropolis Magazine’s Point of View Blog as “Q&A: Edwin Chan,” Iman Ansari interviews Edwin Chan, a design partner at Frank Gehry architects for 25 years, about Gehry and the many significant cultural and institutional projects he worked on before starting his own practice, EC3.
Iman Ansari: When we look at the work of Frank Gehry or Thom Mayne, as LA architects, there is a certain symbolic relationship to the city evident in the work: the industrial character of these buildings and elements of the highway or automobile culture that tie the architecture to the larger urban infrastructure, the scale of the projects, as well as the conscious use of materials such as metal, glass or concrete. But as freestanding machine-like objects sitting at the heart of the city these buildings also embody certain ideals and values that are uniquely American, such as individualism, and freedom of expression. In your opinion how is Frank Gehry's work tied to Los Angeles or the American culture?
Edwin Chan: Absolutely. I think Frank's work definitely has DNA of LA as a city. We talk about the idea of a democratic city a lot, and coincidentally Hillary Clinton mentioned that in her speech recently saying: “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek,” because it's the expression of democracy. In that sense you could think about the building embodying certain type of values that are manifested architecturally.
Set on the edge of the Nervión River in Bilbao, Spain, the Guggenheim Museum is a fusion of complex, swirling forms and captivating materiality that responds to an intricate program and an industrial urban context. With over a hundred exhibitions and more than ten million visitors to its recognition, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao not only changed the way that architects and people think about museums, but also boosted Bilbao's economy with its astounding success. In fact, the phenomenon of a city’s transformation following the construction of a significant piece of architecture is now referred to as the “Bilbao Effect.” Twenty years on, the Museum continues to challenge assumptions about the connections between art and architecture today.
The Processing Environments symposium is organized by the Architectural Association in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and sponsored by the Bilbao Municipality and the Institut Français in Bilbao. It will take place next 19th June at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
The symposium is directed by Maider Llaguno and Clara Olóriz and some of the invited speakers are Alejandro Zaera-Polo (ex FOA, currently AZPA), Juan Herreros, Iñaki Begisitain, Eva Castro & Alfredo Ramirez (Groundlab), Philippe Rahm, and Efrén García Grinda & Cristina Díaz Moreno.
The admission is free.
More information and the complete program after the break