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Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao


The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, was designed by Frank Gehry and opened to the public in 1997. The museum's design and construction serve as an object lesson in Frank Gehry's style and method. Like much of Gehry's other work, the structure consists of radically sculpted, organic contours.

Sited as it is in a port town, it is intended to resemble a ship. Its brilliantly reflective panels resemble fish scales, echoing the other organic (and, in particular, fish-like) forms that recur commonly in Gehry's designs, as well as the river Nervión upon which the museum sits. Also in typical Gehry fashion, the building is uniquely a product of the period's technology. Computer-aided design (CATIA) and visualizations were used heavily in the structure's design.

Computer simulations of the building's structure made it feasible to build shapes that architects of earlier eras would have found nearly impossible to construct. Also important is that while the museum is a spectacular monument from the river, on street level it is quite modest and does not overwhelm its traditional surroundings. The museum was opened as part of a revitalization effort for the city of Bilbao and for the Basque Country. Almost immediately after its opening, the Guggenheim Bilbao became a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe. It was widely credited with "putting Bilbao on the map".

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