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Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry

Bilbao, Spain, 1997


"Disney Hall would not have been built if Bilbao hadn't happened," says Frank O. Gehry, the architect of both iconic buildings. Learn more below.
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain by architect Frank Gehry

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain by architect Frank Gehry

Photo © Miguel Palacios / Getty Images

About Guggenheim Museum Bilbao:

Location: Bilbao in northern Spain, a dozen miles from the Bay of Biscay, which borders western France
Completion: 1997
Height: 187.01 feet
Size: 3 floor high rise
Construction Material: titanium façade; specifications for each titanium panel were created using CATIA (Computer-Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application)
Style: Deconstructivism
Architect: Frank Gehry

In the Words of Architect Gehry:

"We decided to make the building metal because Bilbao was a steel town, and we were trying to use materials related to their industry. So we built twenty-five mock-ups of a stainless steel exterior with different variations on the theme. But in Bilbao, which has a lot of rain and a lot of gray sky, the stainless steel went dead. It only came to life on sunny days. That's why we could use stainless steel at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where there's so much sun it doesn't die."

"I was frustrated because nothing was looking right, and I was still struggling with it when I was in my office looking through the sample files. That's where I found a piece of titanium....Titanium is buttery. If you look at sterling silver silverware, the knife blade is stainless and the handle is sterling. The sterling silver part looks buttery, just like titanium does, whereas the stainless steel knife blade is cold....So I took that piece of titanium, and I nailed it on the telephone pole in front of my office, just to watch it and see what it did in the light. Whenever I went in and out of the office, I'd look at it....The little metal square went golden in the gray light, and....titanium doesn't rust."

Sources: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, EMPORIS; Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, pp. 138-139, 140, 141, 186 [accessed February 25, 2014]

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