Executive summary by darmansjah
Plans for a new museum in Bilbao date to the late 1980s, when the Basque Administration began formulating a major redevelopment of the region. It was not until 1991, however, that Basque authorities proposed the idea for a Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. In moving forward with the museum a site was selected and three architects, Arata Isozaki from Japan, Coop Himmelb au from Austria, and Frank O. Gehry from the United States, were invited to participate in a competition to produce a conceptual design. These were no requirements in terms of drawings or models to be produced; rather, the architects were only asked to present what they thought would convey their concept for the new museum.
Almost from the moment it opened in 1997, Gehry's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, with its distinctive titanium curves and soaring glass atrium, was hailed as one of the most important buildings of the 20th century. Gehry's use of cutting-edge computer-aided design technology enabled him to translate poetic forms into reality. The resulting architecture is sculptural and expressionistic, with spaces unlike any others for the presentation of art. The museum is seamlessly integrated into the urban context, unfolding its interconnecting shapes of stone, glass, and titanium on a 32,500-square-meter site along the Nervión River in the old industrial heart of the city.
Eleven thousand square meters of exhibition space are distributed over nineteen galleries. Ten of these galleries have a classic orthogonal plan and can be identified from the exterior by their stone finishes. Nine other irregularly shaped galleries present a remarkable contrast and can be identified from the outside by their swirling forms and titanium cladding. The largest gallery, measuring 30 meters wide and 130 meters long, was used for temporary exhibitions for several years. In 2005, it became the site of the largest sculpture commission in history, Richard Serra's monumental installation The Matter of Time.