Museo Guggenheim * Bilbao * Frank Gehry
The first great building of the new millennium, Frank Gehry's masterpiece in northern Spain opened in 1997 and, perhaps created a new tradition of great Franks designing great Guggenheims (Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim in New York City in 1959).  Not only responsible for putting the city of Bilbao on the cultural map, the Guggenheim's great success took the Basque region of Spain from being at constant battle with the Spanish government over language and customs, to being the toast of the country and a role model for other cities hoping to capture a bit of the tourist market. In fact, the transformation was so pronounced in the Basque Country that it revitalized the economy of the region (the ship building industry had left the city, and yet there seems to be something oddly ship-like about the appearance of Gehry's museum), prompted updating of existing museums in Bilbao, attracted other big-name architects to Bilbao (Jean Nouvel and Santiago Calatrava to name two), accelerated the acceptance of Basque culture as part of Spanish culture, and has made all of Spain more of a cultural destination than ever before. 

But the effect of this building goes far beyond the borders of Spain, and it's where Geography, architecture and tourism really start to have fun with each other. Museums are now the most commonly built civic structure in the world. Cities from Los Angeles to London are re-designing old museums and building new ones. Private businesses and public agencies alike are often combining on these projects producing unprecedented public/private cooperatives. Cultural tourism is at an all-time high and more projects by big-name architects (Rem Koolhaas, Richard Meier, Daniel Libeskind and I. M. Pei - yes, having a hard-to-pronounce, cool sounding name is a requirement for being a successful architect) are resulting in a new (but old) form of tourism dubbed "architourism." In Las Vegas, casino mogul, Steve Wynn, was set to call his new casino (the most expensive ever made at nearly three billion) Le Reve after the famous Picasso that he owns. While the name has been changed (the casino opened in 2005), a prominent feature will be the casino's art gallery, and Wynn and his wife have clearly stated that they wish to bring a bit of class and culture to Las Vegas. The Guggenheim itself, being a franchise, has started other museums (London's Tate, for example or Boston's Fine Art) to make additional locations. All of this activity has become known as the "Guggenheim Effect" and over seventy cities world-wide are vying for a new Guggenheim. Who's next? Think South America...Rio's Guggenheim is set to open in 2006. 

If you guessed...
the Walt Disney Concert Hall, you are really pretty good at spotting a certain architect. This is also a Gehry design, and in fact, it was the success of Bilbao that allowed the Concert Hall project to go through. Gehry had been fighting with Disney's daughters and board regarding the seemingly outrageous design. Then, the Guggenheim (which was designed after the WDCH), opened, and proved that the forms could actually be built. Disney, always clever, realized that it was sitting on top of some great architecture, and agreed to have the hall constructed. 
If you guessed...
the Gateway Arch, there was obviously some effort on your part to associate the shiny metal with something curving and well-known. Eero Saarinen's (see what I mean about cool names) arch is famous, but it's not in Spain.




geography leisure & recreation architecture, art & design tourism & attractions facilities landscape architecture & urban planning putting it all together (the spectacular)

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