The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is set on an expansive 32,500 square meter of land along banks of the Nervion River.
To implement his original design, Gehry rejected the method of hand-drawn designs, instead opting for a state-of-the-art 3D program, Catia, for his purpose. The software, usually employed in aerospace, gave Gehry the ability to use distinctly curved spaces with unlimited numeric control all through the building process. The interior of the huge edifice is 24,000 square meters. It consists of 3 levels, with 20 art galleries, an auditorium, a restaurant, a café and a bookshop. Glass windows have been put at strategic locations, the purpose being to provide the interior with natural light, and protect the artwork from the harsh sun rays, heat and radiation. The building revolves around a central axis-the atrium, a colossal empty space crowned by a metal dome, which has a built-in skylight. Leading from this central space, a system of curved walkways, glass lifts and stairways connect 19 galleries which combine classical, rectangular shapes with others of unusual proportions and forms.
The materials Gehry used to build the museum were sinuous stone, glass and titanium with a complex steel frame. The location of each material is not only defined by the appearance of exterior, but also related to the different purposes served by the interior spaces: titanium cladding for galleries, limestone for public facilities and blue render for administration.
The titanium cladding used is a half millimeters thick. The titanium volumes, both orthogonal and organic, are linked by glass curtain walls for light transparency. Titanium was chosen because of value of color, texture and capability to reflect light. Also taken into consideration were the extraordinary mechanical capabilities and resistance to corrosion shown by titanium. The thin sheets used gave the building a rippled effect. Also, the location of the museum is right next to the Puente de la Salve Bridge; therefore low right reflection was important not to endanger motorists plying on the bridge with sun glare. Apart from that, titanium was much cheaper if bought from Russia, and much lighter than stainless steel which had been originally specified. In thin sheets of 0.38 millimeter, titanium reveals plastic values that allow it to adapt easily and flexibly to complex surfaces of the elaborate building design. Fluidity was maintained by aligning different coursings as they wrap around the corner.
Stone cladding is located in areas of the building that seem stationary, as opposed to the fluidity of the titanium cladding. The requirements were amber color, high resistance to erosion, easily to be cut through and high mechanical resistance. Computer files were used to generate exact dimensions, complex curves and angles for each piece.
Unique and unusual shapes of the glass curtain wall were formed as it filled the crack between concentrically laid out galleries and continuation of entry ramps running into the atrium. Triangular pieces of glass have been used to articulate necessary curves and necessary curves and unique overall forms. Three layers of glass-one on exterior and two on the interior of the building have been used to insulate it, both acoustically and thermally. Installing an extruding thermal break outside of the curtain wall eliminated a cold bridge from the interior curtain wall to the exterior.
Guggenheim Museum is a work of Postmodern architecture, both by virtue of the designs and materials used. The points we can provide in support of this statement, are- firstly, Gehry has replaced, in his design, the functional and formalized shapes and spaces of the modernist style by diverse aesthetics. In his unconventional design, styles collide, form is adopted for its own sake, and new ways of viewing familiar styles and space are prevalent. Also, his work is neo-eclectic, where reference, wit and ornament have returned to the facade as opposed to the unornamented Modernist style. The Guggenheim follows the conceptual characteristics of meaning, like pluralism, seen in the combination of fluidity and stationary styles adopted with the claddings, double coding, high ceilings, as in the atrium, irony and paradox and conceptualism.
Another one of the many works of Gehry is the Ronald Davis Studio and Residence in Malibu, California, completed in 1972.