Following the opening of Frank O. Gehry’s striking Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in 1997 and its enormous success in terms of media coverage, revenues from tourism and subsequent social and economic regeneration of an entire region, the processes of production and perception of the Landmark building within the urban fabric have undergone a dramatic transformation, which has led to a significant shift in the role that these “signs” play within both the metropolitan and the global contexts.
It now appears as the Landmark and the surrounding urban fabric, besides the mere physical proximity, no longer need any direct interaction. The Landmark is seen as having an end in itself – no coherence needed between image and contents – as what is now sought after is not a functional building responding to specific needs, not a Landmark in the metropolitan context, but rather an Icon in the global market. The hectic rush for increasingly provocative iconic architecture by multinational companies and public administrations worldwide, sparked by the largely misunderstood success of the Guggenheim Bilbao, is now generally known as the “Bilbao Effect”.
The International debate on urban planning and architecture questions on whether this would be a temporary phenomena only waiting for a reason to go out of fashion, or rather represents a substantial turning point in the planning and architectural practice and theory, driven by simultaneous and pivotal shifts in the social and economic fields.
The book deeply explores the subject through an extensive contextualization and wide-spread research in the architectural theory and practice and the current social and economic setting. Objective datas, critical analysis and curious anecdotes are effectively put together to describe the events which led to the advent and decline of the “Bilbao Effect”, in order to make the professional and the general public aware of what lies beyond the shiny surface of provocative and appealing architecture all over the world.