21st CENTURY ART, C.E.- B.C.

"...the geometry is the light..."


Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Frank Gehry


Guggenheim Museum

You saw it first on TV, you didn't catch the country,
but saw the gigantic prow, the stack of
cylindrical forms, the reflections
and the light.

It must have been the opening, or the pre-opening
promo, you didn't listen very closely,
but it did seem to resemble it's older
cousin, Guggenheim, where you,
O Devayani,

have walked round and round going down on a ramp,
going down past the art in the quiet well.
But this was more than that: the shimmer,
the glow. The sound bite

Where is Bilbao?
The Basques? O, Devayni,
it's Spain, not Basqueland.
There was trouble there some years ago.
The Basque regional government, Autonomous Basque Community,

Basque Country --
they call themselves various things --
want cultural prestige, and are willing to gamble
a hundred million dollars, theirs and others,
to get it. You study the story in the Architectural Record:

The Basques persuade Guggenheim and Gehry,
who engages CAITA the computer,
and a formidable conceptual enterprise -- of
boats and blossoms, of sheer sided walls,
undulating curves,

crowns and prows, sleekness and sheerness,
shapes of reactors and rotundas, shapes of
hulls and umbrellas, shapes of precise
corners and pinched curves, bellying walls,

and multileveled -- manifests. It sits on the Nervion River
being no color, every color,
like a hummingbird -- irridescent --
for its patterned skin is titanium:
colorless rectangles of

silver, gold, blue, brown, the color of sunlight and night,
the color of the water and the sky,
the color of buildings near by,
the color of convex and concave, the color of repetition,
of coherence and

numinous thought
rearing dreams on the river, heaving dreams
up from industrial dirt,
O Devayani,
turning geometry into light.

And you've only seen pictures --
of Museo Guggenheim Bilbao,
Bilbao, Spain, built by the Basques,
Guggenheim, Gehrey, et al --

...the geometry is the light...

Jan Haag

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is already on many Websites, it will undoubtedly become one of the most famous buildings in the world. If you're not familiar with this extraordinary work, shimmering in its rectangularly patterned titanium skin, begin with seven other views of the Bilbao Guggenheim, and a brief tour of Frank Gehry's Work, starting with his design for a Concert Hall and Hotel in Los Angeles. Architectual Record also had an excellent history of the project in their October, 1997 issue.

Details from photographs Copyright © Architectual Record
October, 1997


Guggenheim Museum

21st Century Art, C.E. - B.C., A Context

Copyright © Jan Haag 2000

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: jhaag@u.washington.edu