Ever heard of the Bilbao Effect? This expression is used when an architectural masterpiece attracts tourists to the extent that the place where it resides enjoys economic development as a result. The theory’s origins are to be found in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, one of the twentieth century’s most spectacular works of architecture.
The 1990s were of considerable importance to Bilbao. The city underwent considerable urban renewal, which entailed amongst other things the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, thereby putting the city itself in the international spotlight. Its Canadian architect, Frank O. Gehry, became one of the most celebrated exponents of his profession of our times.
Inaugurated in 1997, the building is part of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s museums standing on the banks of the River Nervión; half of its overall surface area of 24,000 square metres is set aside for exhibitions.
The museum’s most unusual architectural feature is its sinuosity; owing to the mathematical complexity of Gehry’s design, he decided to work with advanced software initially conceived for the aerospace industry. In addition, the building is covered with more than 33,000 titanium panels. They reflect the light in a manner which varies depending on its source, thereby giving the building the appearance almost of a living creature.
The building’s social and economic impact on Bilbao was felt almost as soon as it opened, and the arrival of millions of tourists each year has produced something of a rebirth for the city. Nowadays the Guggenheim, apart from being one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary pieces of architecture, is regarded as the symbol of the city’s success.
Bilbao, June 2018