There are currently three Guggenheim Museums worldwide with a fourth coming soon in Abu Dhabi. The three existing museums are located in Bilbao, Venice and the original one in New York which opened in 1959. There were also Guggenheim Museums in Las Vegas, Berlin and Soho, all of which have unfortunately closed. The most extraordinary Guggenheim Museum is located on a port in Bilbao, Spain. In 1991 the Basque Government suggested to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to build a museum in Bilbao within a port which was once the city’s main source of income. In 1997, the $89 million building was opened to the public, with approximately 5,000 residents of Bilbao attending the opening ceremony. The museum was to consist of many exhibitions, some permanent and some temporary, but perhaps the most breath taking thing to see at the museum is the building itself! The architect, Frank Gehry, wanted to design something out of the ordinary, to tie in with his already impressive portfolio of buildings he has designed, but the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is one that will stand out for centuries.
The unique curves on the exterior of the building are designed “to catch the light” with the façade mainly consisting of a reflective material and glazing, allowing natural lighting to flow through the building. With the individualism of the building design, perhaps one of the most shocking truths surrounding the Museum was that it was finished on time and within the budget! In the first three years after the building opened, over 4 million tourists from all over the world visited. The building was used in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. Inside the building the astonishing design continues with the continued curves and reflective modern design with obscure glazed structures. The open plan atrium, known as “The Flower” due to its shape, has light coming in from the glazed walls and ceiling. The Flower gives access to several curved walkways and glass lifts which give access to 19 different galleries! At the entrance of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao stands a 12m tall guard dog called Puppy. Designed to stand guard at the entrance of the museum, Puppy brings feelings of awe to those who walk past it. Perhaps this is because the sculpture is almost life like as it is still growing! The sculpture is made of flowers which must be maintained as they continue to grow. On the other side of the museum, there is a landscaped walk along the port in which the building stands. However, along the walkway amid the beautiful scenery, scorching sun and eye catching building stands a 9m tall spider called Maman. The giant sculpture was designed to strike fear into the visitors and it certainly does that. Not the ideal place for someone who suffers from arachnophobia! The designer of Maman, Louise Bourgeois, said the sculpture was a reminder to herself of her mother, hence the name Maman meaning Mummy in French. Bourgeois claimed that the hard working and caring nature of a spider reflected her mother’s personality whilst it could strike fear into anyone.