“The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, looked like something out of an alien hallucination—a swirling collage of warped metallic forms that appeared to have been propped up against one another in an almost random way. Stretching into the distance, the chaotic mass of shapes was draped in more than thirty thousand titanium tiles that glinted like fish scales and gave the structure a simultaneously organic and extraterrestrial feel, as if some futuristic leviathan had crawled out of the water to sun herself on the riverbank. When the building was first unveiled in 1997, The New Yorker hailed its architect, Frank O. Gehry, as having designed ‚a fantastic dream ship of undulating form in a cloak of titanium,‘ while other critics around the world gushed, ‘The greatest building of our time!‘ ‘Mercurial brilliance! ‘ ‘An astonishing architectural feat!‘
Dan Brown, “Origin”
Despite Dan Brown‘s proneness to exaggeration and hyperbole, my impression of the Guggenheim Museum was a similar mixture of shock and awe. The building has an organic feel and yet it is obviously artificial and futuristic, the combination which I do not normally go for. Having admired it in various times of the day, I noticed it looked different each time. The blinding light of the day morphed into soothing sepia towards the evening. It seems to shimmer and float – it seems ungraspable, uncanny. Yet the combination of sinuous and vertical lines is not disconcerting at all. Unlike the majority of modern architecture, this building seems harmonious and comforting. The titanium tiles look very natural. Maybe because O. Gehry had them laid in a pattern used in traditional roofing instead of going for a futuristic design. He referred to them as “the skin oft he building“ to complete the ubiquitous organic metaphor.
The story oft he museum’s creation is quite inspiring. In the 1980s Bilbao was in deep crisis due to a major industrial collapse. The previously life-giving estuary oft he river had been abandoned due tot he collapse of shipyard industry. The city’s council thought of a non-Orthodox solution. To revive the desolate river bank. It may be said indeed that the building was born out of the water and that it breathed new life into the gloomy city. As a result, Bilbao was completely renewed and transformed so much so that it is now one of the wealthiest in the whole country. The construction started in 1993 and the museum was opened in 1997.
In order to enter the museum, one needs to go downstairs. This is unique and made me think of going into the belly of the whale. It seemed like a natural movement towards the unconscious. Inside the structure there is almost complete freedom of movement. The atrium forms a nexus with no assigned linear order of visiting any rooms. This reminded me of a medieval plaza, from where various streets radiated. Each visitor can choose the order according to what beckons them at a given moment. The visit was thus very relaxing and not overwhelming, as is the case with many museums.
The art inside and outside is quite unique. My imagination was mostly captured by Maman outside, the giant walk-in sculpture The Matter of Time inside, the sculpture How Profound is the Air, and last but not least, by a precious few paintings by Anselm Kiefer, who is one of my favourite artists. You can view the works by following the links below:
I used some information found in this book in writing my post:
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