Edited text gathered from numerous web sources and personal observations:
The titanium finish on the exterior of Museo Guggenheim Bilbao makes this structure one of modern architecture's most iconic buildings. It has single-handedly lifted Bilbao out of its post-industrial depression – with sensation. Museo Guggenheim boosted the city’s already inspired regeneration, stimulated further development and placed Bilbao firmly in the international art and tourism spotlight.
Canadian architect Frank Gehry’s use of canopies, ship shapes, towers, cliffs, promontories, and flying fins is irresistible.
Gehry designed the museum with historical contexts in mind. The site was an industrial has-been, part of Bilbao’s decaying warehouse district on the banks of the Ría del Nervión. The city’s historical industries of shipbuilding, mining and fishing reflected Gehry’s interests, not the least of which was his connection with industrial materials.
The gleaming titanium tiles that sheathe most of the building like giant herring scales are said to have been inspired by the architect’s childhood fascination with fish.
Other artists have added their touch as well
Standing between the glass buttresses of the central atrium and the Ría del Nervión is a pool of water that emits a mist installation by Fuyiko Nakaya. Near the riverbank is Louise Bourgeois' Maman, a skeletal spider-like canopy said to symbolise a protective embrace. In the open area west of the museum, the child-favourite fountain sculpture randomly fires off jets of water. Jeff Koons’ kitsch whimsy Puppy, a 12m-tall Highland Terrier made up of thousands of begonias, is on the city side of the museum. Bilbao has hung on to ‘El Poop’, who was supposed to be a passing attraction as part of a world tour. Bilbaínos will tell you that El Poop came first – and then they had to build a kennel behind it.
Inside, the museum is vast. The cathedral-like atrium is more than 45m high, with light pouring in through the glass cliffs. Permanent exhibits fill the ground floor and include such wonders as mazes of metal and phrases of light reaching for the skies.
For most people, though, it is the temporary exhibitions – from the life work of Yoko Ono to the extraordinary sculptures of Brazilian Ernesto Neto – that are the main attraction.
Admission prices vary depending on special exhibitions and time of year. Tours can be conducted in many languages but you must ask at the information desk beforehand. Groups are limited to 20 (and there needs to be a minimum of eight), so get there early. It’s also possible to organise private group tours with advance request in Spanish, English, French and German, among others.
The museum is equipped with specially adapted magnetic loop PDA video guides for those with hearing impairments. Excellent self-guided audio tours in various languages are free with admission and there is also a special children's audio guide. Entry queues can be horrendous, with wet summer days and Easter almost guaranteeing you a wait of over an hour. The museum is wheelchair accessible.
Enjoy our photos from in and around the Guggenheim and the city of Bilbao . . .
Guggenheim Museo Bilbao information posted at wikipedia.com . . .
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a museum of modern and contemporary art designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and located in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. The museum was inaugurated on 18 October 1997 by former King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Built alongside the Nervion River, which runs through the city of Bilbao to the Cantabrian Sea, it is one of several museums belonging to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and features permanent and visiting exhibits of works by Spanish and international artists. It is one of the largest museums in Spain.
One of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, the building has been hailed as a "signal moment in the architectural culture", because it represents "one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something." The museum was the building most frequently named as one of the most important works completed since 1980 in the 2010 World Architecture Survey among architecture experts.
In 1991, the Basque government suggested to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation that it would fund a Guggenheim museum to be built in Bilbao's decrepit port area, once the city's main source of income. The Basque government agreed to cover the US$100 million construction cost, to create a US$50 million acquisitions fund, to pay a one-time US$20 million fee to the Guggenheim and to subsidize the museum's US$12 million annual budget. In exchange, the Foundation agreed to manage the institution, rotate parts of its permanent collection through the Bilbao museum and organize temporary exhibitions.
The museum was built by Ferrovial, at a cost of US$89 million. About 5,000 residents of Bilbao attended a preopening extravaganza outside the museum on the night preceding the official opening, featuring an outdoor light show and concerts. On 18 October 1997 the museum was opened by Juan Carlos I of Spain.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation selected Frank Gehry as the architect, and its director, Thomas Krens, encouraged him to design something daring and innovative.
The curves on the exterior of the building were intended to appear random; the architect said that "the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light". The interior "is designed around a large, light-filled atrium with views of Bilbao's estuary and the surrounding hills of the Basque country". The atrium, which Gehry nicknamed The Flower because of its shape, serves as the organizing center of the museum.
When the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened to the public in 1997, it was immediately hailed as one of the world's most spectacular buildings in the style of Deconstructivism (although Gehry does not associate himself with that architectural movement), a masterpiece of the 20th century. Architect Philip Johnson described it as "the greatest building of our time", while critic Calvin Tomkins, in The New Yorker, characterized it as "a fantastic dream ship of undulating form in a cloak of titanium," its brilliantly reflective panels also reminiscent of fish scales. Herbert Muschamp praised its "mercurial brilliance" in The New York Times Magazine.
The Independent calls the museum "an astonishing architectural feat". The building inspired other structures of similar design across the globe.
The museum is seamlessly integrated into the urban context, unfolding its interconnecting shapes of stone, glass and titanium on a 32,500-square-meter (350,000 sq ft) site along the Nervión River in the ancient industrial heart of the city; while modest from street level, it is most impressive when viewed from the river. With a total 24,000 m2 (260,000 sq ft), of which 11,000 m2 (120,000 sq ft) are dedicated to exhibition space, it had more exhibition space than the three Guggenheim collections in New York and Venice combined at that time. The 11,000 m2 of exhibition space are distributed over nineteen galleries, ten of which follow a classic orthogonal plan that can be identified from the exterior by their stone finishes. The remaining nine galleries are irregularly shaped and can be identified from the outside by their swirling organic forms and titanium cladding. The largest gallery measures 30 meters wide and 130 meters long (98 ft × 427 ft). In 2005, it housed Richard Serra's monumental installation The Matter of Time, which Robert Hughes dubbed "courageous and sublime".
The building was constructed on time and budget, which is rare for architecture of this type. In an interview in Harvard Design Magazine, Gehry explained how he did it. First, he ensured that what he calls the "organization of the artist" prevailed during construction, to prevent political and business interests from interfering with the design. Second, he made sure he had a detailed and realistic cost estimate before proceeding. Third, he used computer visualizations produced by his own Digital Project software and collaborated closely with the individual building trades to control costs during construction.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines donated $1,000,000 towards its construction.