Why the “Bilbao effect” works in Bilbao

Source: guggenheim.org/bilbao

Source: guggenheim.org/bilbao

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!

Bilbao’s new City Hall (2011)

Source: archdaily.com/166456/bilbao-city-hall-imb-arquitectos/

Source: archdaily.com/166456/bilbao-city-hall-imb-arquitectos/

Bilbao’s amazing 10,000 seat arena (2010) 

Source: archdaily.com/183721/bilbao-arena-acxt/

Source: archdaily.com/183721/bilbao-arena-acxt/

Bilbao’s futuristic airport control tower (1999)

Source: designtheorykje.wordpress.com

Source: designtheorykje.wordpress.com

Bilbao’s spectacular bridges

Pedro Arrupe Footbridge (2003) - Source: bilbaoexposhanghai2010.elcorreo.com

Pedro Arrupe Footbridge (2003) – Source: bilbaoexposhanghai2010.elcorreo.com

Zubi Zini Bridge - Source: en.wikipedia.org

Zubi Zuri Bridge (1997) – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Eskalduna Bridge  (1997)

Eskalduna Bridge (1997) – Source: bilbaointernational.com/en/bilbao-and-its-bridges/

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6 Responses to Why the “Bilbao effect” works in Bilbao

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    FYI: if you ever see a bank with the name BBVA Compass, it stands for Banco Billbao Vizcaya Argentaria Compass (Compass was formerly Central Bank, and was merged in with BBVA, a Spanish bank)


  2. Erik says:

    Couldn’t they have thought outside the box a little?… kidding of course, that is a pretty spectacular range of work!


  3. Gil says:

    I am a ‘fan’ only in so much as considering this as an aesthetic improvement, not unlike street art on blank abandoned building walls can be. I am sure that there is some economic benefit associated as well. As far as its social utility in the every day life of residents, well….I am more a fan of a project such as Gabriele’s Wharf in London.


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