Ann Tran

The Guggenheim in Bilbao: Ten Reasons You Must Visit

Friday, November 29, 2019
By Azamara

This is a special guest post by Ann Tran of

Many travellers make the pilgrimage to Bilbao, Spain just to see the famous Guggenheim Museum. Built on the riverbanks of what used to be an industrial wasteland, the Guggenheim Museum now represents the center and soul of the city. Yes, there are the delicious tapas bars and the famed historic district with its old cathedrals and quaint narrow streets, but the architectural splendor of the Guggenheim draws visitors from around the world. 

These interesting facts about the building make it such a must-see attraction:
1) Frank Gehry's building is one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, 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.”
2) The original material was to be stainless steel, but the close proximity of the bridge made the highly reflective surface a danger to drivers, so it was changed to titanium.
3) More than 35,000 titanium tiles sheathe most of the building like giant herring scales, and are said to have been inspired by the architect’s childhood fascination with fish.
4) On the city side, Jeff Koons’ whimsical and kitschy sculpture Puppy is a 50-foot-tall West Highland terrier made up of thousands of begonias.
5) The museum has acquired a permanent collection that spans the middle of the 20th century to contemporary time. The emphasis is on European and American painting and sculpture from the post-war period.
6) Inside the building visitors will find three stories and extremely high ceilings. The ceiling for the first floor is about 50 feet high, allowing the museum to display huge works of art and installations.
7) One area of the first floor is dedicated to huge steel sculptures by internationally renowned sculptor Richard Serra. They are formed like huge cylinders, like the insides of sea shells, and one walks inside the sculptures.
8) The Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles was also designed by Frank Gehry in his distinctive, free-flowing architectural style.
9) Recently installed in 2009, Kapoor's "Tall Tree and the Eye" consists of 73 reflective spheres anchored on three axes. This illusionistic work examines complex mathematical principles, as the mirrored surfaces of the orbs reflect and refract each other.
10) Tip: paying €15 to see the contemporary art exhibits inside may not be everyone's cup of tea. However, if you want speedy WiFi service, you can sit at the cafe outside and log in for free by entering your name and email.
The socio-economic impact of the museum has been astounding. During the first three years of operation, almost 4 million tourists visited the museum—generating about €500 million in profit. Furthermore, visitor spending generated over €100 million in taxes, which more than offset the cost of the building. The “Bilbao Effect” also sparked a building boom in "statement" architecture across the globe.

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