That’s the last chapter talking about the massive structure of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The upcoming articles will are about the permanent collection and one current exhibition of the Guggenheim Bilbao.
THE HEART OF THE MUSEUM
Still very much influenced by Rationalism – the dominant movement in 20th century architecture -, Frank O. Gehry believed in his youth that it was paramount that a museum “respects” the art it exhibit. Therefore, according to this theory, the best gallery is a simple and smooth box of orthogonal proportions and large dimensions whose forms do not compete with the works that are on display. Nonetheless, in the late 1970’s, as a result of a conversation with conceptual artist Daniel Buren and Michael Asher, Gehry started to experiment by doing the exact opposite. Buren and Asher convinced him that architecture should not surrender to art with the design of neutral buildings. Many years later, the construction of the Guggenheim Bilbao offered to Gehry a new opportunity to apply his updated conceptual theories. Using these ideas the architect set about the design of the inside of the Museum’s atrium taking into account functional and exhibition aspects whilst not losing sight of his aim to convert this space – a place where he takes full advantage of his constructive creativity– into his great sculptural masterpiece. Gehry worked on a solution that converted the atrium into the building’s key area: a central space from which all exhibition rooms in the Museum could be reached. He provided the atrium with abundant natural light, open to the city by means of enormous windows. All in all, he cleverly managed to transmit a warm and welcoming atmosphere to an immense space that is considered by many people to be a work of art in itself.
THE EXHIBITION SPACES
The Basque Administrations along with the Guggenheim Foundation agreed that the interior of the Museum like the exterior had to convert the building into an indisputable icon – an opinion confirmed by their choice of Frank O.Gehry as project architect -in which informal and heterodox lines would prevail. Nonetheless, at the same time, they also believed a museum required a certain discipline and that it wasn’t just a question of displaying works in large and irregular spaces but managing a certain balance between a traditional exhibition style and a more innovative one. Instead of feeling constrained by this demand, the North American architect gave free rein to his creativity and delved deep into the design of the Guggenheim Bilbao’s exhibition rooms in apparently opposing directions: on the one hand by creating irregular spaces with unconventional features, with large dimensions where curved surfaces abound, while on the other hand by devising more classical spaces, with refutal shapes where right angles predominate. Gehry organised the Museum’s different galleries into similar proportions and patterns, designing ten galleries with straight walls – regular rooms – and then ten other galleries of a more heterogeneous nature – irregular rooms – where less conventional works would be on display. The architect managed to integrate the wings of the Museum building that had to hold more classical galleries, combining the functionalism of rectilinear forms with the imagination of curved surfaces, which were prominent features of his deconstructivism architectonic style.