The “Bilbao effect” (also known as the ‘Guggenheim effect’) pertains to the cause and effect (causal) relationship that occurred when a single world-class project became the catalyst for reviving this once gritty, economically distressed, post-industrial city. The opening of architect Frank Geary’s masterful Guggenheim Museum in 1997 was the catapulted Bilbao onto the world stage.
Since the completion of the Guggenheim Museum, the city has joined the who’s who of European travel destinations and has become an important addition to many a serious art and architecture lover’s travel itinerary. Needless to say, other cities around the world took notice as Bilbao became the symbol of successful economic and cultural revival. Unfortunately, Bilbao’s success did not necessarily transfer to every city that attempted the same vision.
To Bilbao’s credit, the city did not rest on its laurels. No one-hit wonder for this dynamic city. An entire series of jaw-dropping architectural achievements have been added to the landscape in coordination with or since the completion of the Guggenheim Museum to establish an awe-inspiring architect’s canvas set amid this picturesque Basque setting. Perhaps, that is why Bilbao continues to succeed a decade and a half later, where other cities have faltered. Throw in centuries of artistic and architectural legacy in Bilbao and you have a recipe for a long-term urban economic success story.
In the United States, Columbus, Indiana has been synonymous with its collection of eye-popping modern and post-modern architectural achievements. It is safe to say that Bilbao is strongly contending for this role in Europe, even when including Paris. Personally, I know my first holiday to the Iberian Peninsula will not just include the standard-bearing tourist icons of Barcelona, Madrid, or Lisbon; for this urban planner and architectural geek wants to visit Bilbao first.
Felicidades a todos los ciudadanos de Bilbao por su éxito en la toma de su ciudad un escaparate de arquitectura de todo el mundo para disfrutar.
Below is a sampling of Bilbao’s recent architectural achievements to whet the appetite of any fan of structural artistry. Enjoy!