Early morning view of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Photo by PA, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Arts section of the online BBC news site recently published an interesting article by William Cook on the changes experienced by Bilbao in the last twenty years. Cited in the article, Sir Norman Foster, the world famous architect behind the iconic metro system in the city, recalls: “Of all my memories as an architect, going to sites and seeing buildings, nothing compares with my experience in Bilbao.” He continues: “There was something almost religious about my experience in Bilbao, and I will never forget it.”
Check out the full article here.
When it comes to Bilbao, it goes without saying that we can’t recommend our very own Joseba Zulaika’s award-winning book, That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, highly enough. But the CBS has also published other works that explore the impact of the Bilbao transformation and related issues in many different ways. See, for example, Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain, Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi, and Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.
October 18, 1997 marked the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – today one of the most emblematic sites in the Basque Country.
The Guggenheim by night. Photo by PA. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Hailed as a masterpiece and one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by architect Frank Gehry, came to redefine the Basque Country as a whole and the city of Bilbao in particular: it was the “miracle” of Bilbao.
The “miracle” referred of course to Frank Gehry’s Bilbao masterpiece. Hailed as an “instant landmark,” it brought a new sense of relevance to architecture in the transformation of urban landscapes. It was the story of the architect as hero and, as the Greeks believed, of architecture as the first art—arché. Bilbao was doing for the Basques what the Sidney Opera House had done for Australia. Gehry, while complaining of being “geniused to death,” became not only the master architect, but the master artist.
These observations come from the introduction to Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here.
The Center also publishes other books on the social, cultural, and urban transformation of Bilbao and the Basque Country, for which the Guggenheim served in many respects as a springboard:
That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, by Joseba Zulaika.
Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.
Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.
The Center’s Joseba Zulaika has had a busy summer already! On June 16, he presented a paper at the symposium Law and Image II: Representing the Nation-State, at Birkbeck, University of London. Zulaika’s talk was titled “Images, Fantasy, and the Law: The Limits of the Nation-State and the Manufacturing of Terror.”
He then took part in a conference organized through the University of the Basque Country summer school. Held June 29-July 1 and titled “On Twenty-first Century Nationalism,” the conference attempted to answer some of the questions surrounding the meaning of nationalism in general, and Basque nationalism in particular, in the age of globalization and political and economic integration. Zulaika gave a presentation titled “From the Big World to the Small World and Back Again.” See a video of the presentation here.
What’s more, Zulaika also recently published an interesting online article, “A Tale of Two Museums,” for the journal Anthropology News. In the article Zulaika explores the central role played by two museums–San Telmo in Donostia-San Sebastián and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao–in rethinking the Basque Country in the twenty-first century. Read the full article here.
Check out another Basque-themed article in the same journal, this time on the topic of Basque food: “A Taste of the Basque Country,” by Nikki Gorrell from the College of Western Idaho, discusses the importance of the pintxo or Basque finger-food in Basque culture as a whole. Check out the full article here.
The Center is welcoming the visit of art researchers Oihane Sanchez and Leire Baztarrica. They will be in residence until December 21.
Oihane is a second-year graduate student at the School of Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. Her project consists in relating the Guggenheim Museum with the metropolitan area of Bilbao in general, and with the local artists in particular. She plans to compare these relationships with those taking place in the American Far West–in cities such as Reno.
Leire is a photographer and designer. She is a fifth-year student specializing in Creativity and Design within the School of Fine Arts of the University of the Basque Country, Leioa. The project she plans to develop is a study of Reno’s neon lights, analyzing their formal aspects, colors, and symbolic content, as well as cataloging them. As part of her research, she also plans to interview and photograph local people. See some of Leire’s work here.
Last month the Canadian-born architect who first moved to Los Angeles in 1949 was covered in the news quite extensively. NPR, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post have all featured Gehry and his life’s work in some fashion or another. One of the most mentioned works of architecture is, of course, The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. It was in 1997 that the museum was built in effort to bring an appreciation of culture to the Basque city that had been lying in industrial ruin. This “ship-wreck” was the viewed as a “promise of a new city” as described by Dr. Joseba Zulaika. Gehry’s work and its contribution to Bilbao is a main theme of Prof. Zulaika’s class, “The Bilbao Guggenheim,” in which I’m enrolled this semester. I knew nothing of the back story involved in terms of why and how the building of the Guggenheim came to be, but by reading That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, Prof. Zulaika’s book on the transformation of the city and its people, I am finding out about the struggle and importance of building this museum.
Click on the book link provided above for your own copy, or check out the story from NPR’s Susan Stamberg below:
Frank Gehry’s Lifelong Challenge: To Create Buildings that Move
Here are a few of Frank Gehry’s famous works, with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at top
The great architect Frank Gehry, whose Guggenheim Bilbao Museum became the landmark building of the turn of the century and turned Bilbao into the worldwide paradigm of a city recreated by architecture, has designed a second work for the city: a bridge connecting Zorrotzaurre with Deusto that will be named after him: “Gehry Zubia” (literally, Gehry Bridge). Gehry has never shied away from expressing his “love” for the city that made him internationally renowned as the master artist and a household name. The bridge was opened to pedestrians at its official inauguration yesterday, September 14 (with traffic access scheduled for next year, upon completion of work on the Deusto Canal). For more information on the inauguration, click here.
Aerial shot of the Deusto Canal (2010), with the future islet of Zorrotzaurre in the center, by Fernandopascullo, via Wikimedia Commons
Recently Joseba Zulaika published his ethnography/memoir about Bilbao entitled That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, in which he discusses at length the impact of Gehry’s masterpiece on the city and turns such a glorious “shipwreck” (as Gehry described it) into the emblem of his generation.