The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is the building most frequently named as one of the most important works completed since 1980 in the 2010 World Architecture Survey among architecture experts.
Also world-famous architect Philip Johnson called the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao “the greatest building of our time.”
The city, once the culturally moribund commercial center of Spain’s Basque region, was revitalized by the 1997 opening of this radically unconventional museum , an irregular fusion of limestone, glass, and a shell of thousands of lustrous titanium sheets.
Critics have described the museum as looking like a cauliflower or a large soufflé , Few visitors remain unmoved upon entering the museum’s 150-foot-high atrium, from which glass elevators and metal walkways lead to 19 exhibition spaces , including the world’s largest gallery, measuring 426 feet long and 98 feet wide. The ground-floor galleries suit large-scale artworks and installations, and some pieces were specifically made to fit their exhibit spaces, among them Richard Serra’s Serpent.
The outside of the museum is predominantly covered with titanium which is guaranteed to last a hundred years. Titanium is thinner than stainless steel. It does not lie flat and strong winds make it flutter. The effect is such that the building actually moves, giving the impression of being alive. As the building reflects sunlight during different times of the day the titanium seems to change color as well.
Works of art displayed at “El Guggy” come from New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and from the Basque government. Pieces range from abstract expressionist to cubist and geometrical, and include many big names of 20th-century art: Kandinsky, Picasso, Pollock, De Kooning.
The museum is made up of nineteen galleries on three floors. The largest gallery is bigger than a football field. The museum also holds an auditorium, a restaurant, a library and a gift shop, as well as offices and a tower. All the smaller galleries branch out from the large, three story, central atrium. To enter the museum one must first pass the Jeff Koons sculpture Puppy and then follow a wide staircase going down. The atrium is crisscrossed by ramps, suspension bridge walkways and has large glass elevators that give visitors a view of the museum inside as well as the architecture and art on the outside.
Still, the museum itself remains the main attraction. Visitors gaze out through tall windows, running their eyes along the museum’s titanium ripples. It’s surely one of the most important works since 1980 !