Beginning a column on architectural wonders, both modern and ancient. The first to be featured is the Guggenheim museum at Bilboa, Spain, which is dramatically free flowing.
Building of the millennium: A major tourist attraction.
Celebrated by some as the building of the millennium, the titanium clad Guggenheim museum at Bilbao, Spain, is an architectural spectacle without dispute. This museum built in 1997 has challenged not only entrenched ideas about architecture but has also pushed construction technology to new limits. The credit for designing this iconic building goes to Frank Gehry, the American architect.
The form of this 32,500 sq. m museum space is not a conventional box nor has any predictable Euclidian shape. It is dramatically free flowing and as Ghery himself would declare, it is not just about artistry but precision. This building was built using the most advanced computing software called CATIA developed by the French aerospace company, Dassault systemes. The CATIA software was hitherto used for designing aeroplanes and automobiles, but the complex form of Guggenheim warranted this precision.
Annette Lecuyer writing for Architecture Review describes it as a building built without any tape measures. Many parts of the building were fabricated, bar coded and marked for managing their placements. The bar codes were swiped at
site to find the coordinates of the fabricated pieces and were laced in position using a computer controlled laser surveying equipment.
All these did not come cheap. The city of Bilboa paid $20 million to the Guggenheim as its franchisee amount. About $100 million for the building and $12 million for annual maintenance were allocated. In addition, a sum of $50 million was allotted for art acquisition. In all, about $170million was spent on the project. Harvard Design School Studies, 2005 reveal this is about Rs.7,140 crore which could be equivalent to the annual budget of some of the small states in India.
However, the city thinks it is an amount well spent. Ever since the Guggenheim building was inaugurated, Bilboa has become a major tourist destination. According to the 2001 figures, the favourable impact caused by the museum visitors on the local economy has been $147 million. According to Frobes.com, a single architectural project seems to have turned the tide for the city. It is not surprising that such a model of urban development through signature buildings is now popularly dubbed as Bilbao effect. Many cities including Taiwan want to reproduce the Bilbao effect.
The building is not without its critics. The museum, many think, though spectacular has failed to function as a vibrant public space. The huge sums of money spent on a single building has not ensured the overall revitalisation of the city, they say.
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