A modern architectural master piece, Guggenheim museum Bilbao

View of the Guggenheim Bilbao from La Salve Bridge

View of the Guggenheim Bilbao from La Salve Bridge

Bilbao, a city in the Basque Country in Northern Spain, often conjures images of an industrial port city that doesn’t have much to offer. However, over the last decade it has been a thriving city full of contrasts of old and new, antique and modern. In 1991, the Basque Government and artictects gathered to bring a modern art museum to Bilbao and after a series of meetings and discussions about who should design the building, Toronto born architect, Frank Gehry was nominated. 

Entrance to the Guggenheim Bilbao

Entrance to the Guggenheim Bilbao

One of Frank Gehry’s main goals in his design of the modern art museum was to incorporate the surrounding area within the structure and to remind us that the land once was used as a wharf. While in the museum, the bountiful windows and glass interior allows patrons to interact with their environment and remind us the River Nervión and La Salve bridge are just outside, just a few steps away.  

Inside the Guggenheim with views of the La Salve bridge and surroundings

Inside the Guggenheim with views of the La Salve bridge and surroundings

Whether you like modern art or not, the building is a spectacular art piece that draws a crowd, often for the building than for what is housed inside. The outer layer of the building is made up 33,000 thin titanium sheets which allowed Gehry the flexibilty to craft his fluid design and add color to the shiny metal depending on the weather and lighting.  The building is quite a masterpiece as it defies what we typically think is possible and Gerhy used an aerospace software program to help turn his napkin-sketched mathematically complex idea into reality.

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When you  pay your 13 Euros (unless you qualify for a student or retiree discount) entrance fee, you are given an audio guide to take a self-guided tour. Though I’ve never been one to pay for an additional audio guide, Guggenheim staff have carefully thought out the importance of providing this guide for guests to understand architect Frank Gehry intentions and how his creative ideas were able to be transformed into a reality.

Staring up as I listened to the audio-guide in the atrium

Staring up as I listened to the audio-guide in the atrium

Frank Gehry explains that when he was nominated to design the Guggenheim Bilbao, he spent an evening in a bar near the site and began sketching a design on a cocktail napkin never lifting his pen off the paper to allow for a fluid design- everything connected. “During my childhood I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who would buy fish from the local market and fill up the bath tub until she was ready to cook them. I would play with the fish, sometimes for hours, admiring their scales, their touch and their movements. These early childhood memories play a big role in my work.”  It’s apparent that the Guggenheim is a direct example of his first hand experiences with  nature as a child. 

Capturing the sculptures outside the museum

Capturing the sculptures outside the museum

Playing with perspective

Playing with perspective

Going beyond perspective-within the bubble sculptures reflection!

Going beyond perspective-within the bubble sculptures reflection!

My day at the Guggenheim was a day of appreciation and curiosity, snapping photos frequently, as I admired the curves and reflections of the building and my relation to the structure. Whether you are a fan of modern art or not, I find the Guggenheim Bilbao museum an architectural wonder and found myself more fascinated with the flow-y and scale-like architecture, than with the permanent collections and rotating art exhibits. 

People may have their own opinions on Frank Gehry’s design but the building itself pushes the limits of what we perceive as possible. If modern art leaves you flat, consider this museum a place where you are reminded that anything is possible, it’s just a matter of believing in yourself and finding people who believe in you, in order to make your dreams a reality. Both the building and the sculptures outside, remind us to look at life through different lenses, different perspectives. 

Have you been to the Guggenheim Bilbao or in another city? What do you think about Frank Gehry’s architecture?

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14 thoughts on “A modern architectural master piece, Guggenheim museum Bilbao

  1. Pingback: Walking to the beautiful hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe | Roamingtheworld

  2. Pingback: The Unexpected in Bilbao, Spain | Jump Write In

  3. I love Guggenheim Bilbao. When I am inside, I feel very confortable. The fact of the walls beeing curved reminds me the human beeing affection. And it permets a very beautiful changes of light, considering that there are big curved windows contributing to this play of lights and shadows. On the outside, its like an sculpture, a boat by the river. Dimensions are good, not too big. I know others Gehry’s buildings: a cellar in Elciego, a village of La Rioja Alavesa. I love it. In this building, the roof is made in three colors, one is the silver of the material, and the others two colors remember the white and the red wine. I know too the whale of DZ Bank, in Pariser Platz of Berlin, a different concept of an interior.

  4. I’ve been here too and I wished I had more time in Bilbao because it seemed like such an eclectic city. I loved the inside and outside of the building, including the exhibits. Especially the exhibit on the ground floor with the metal sculptures you could enter like a labyrinth, can’t remember the artist’s name.

    • Yes. I don’t remember his name at the moment either but loved walking through the metal sculptures exhibit.

    • The sculpture is new, no? I was there dec 2011 and I don’t remember seeing it. I still hope I can fit BCN before I fly home this summer. but it may be tight. How are your first 3 wkends in June looking?

  5. Lauren, I am so impressed with this post, you really captured the experience of being there and in what Gehry accomplished as an architect/ artist. Both your writing and photos seem so professional and you have really inspired me to up my game with my own posts.

    I just loved visiting the Guggenheim, it really took my breath away how spectacular it was both inside and out.

  6. I don’t understand modern art but I love modern art museums, they have some of the most interesting architecture! I’d have so much fun photographing this place.

    • Agreed. Annoying thing with Marques is you can’t really see the art of the building without a tour!

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