Month: November 2017

Visit The Guggenheim Museum In Bilbao

Architects, Critics, Curators, and Museum Directors Reflect on Twenty Years of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

On October 19, 1997, a new art museum opened in Bilbao, one with a curving titanium form unlike anything built before it. Seemingly overnight, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao became one of the best-known buildings in the world. For those in the architectural community, as New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp noted at the time, Bilbao became “a pilgrimage town” even before that opening date: “People have been flocking to Bilbao for nearly two years, just to watch the building’s skeleton take shape. ‘Have you been to Bilbao?’ In architectural circles, that question has acquired the status of a shibboleth. Have you seen the light? Have you seen the future?” Two decades later, that future is arguably here: we are still living in the world that Gehry and the Guggenheim created. To mark the occasion, I asked leaders in the architectural community and within our institution to share their recollections and thoughts about the meaning of the Bilbao museum, then and now.

Built alongside a river of an ancient city, inaugurated by a king, reminiscent of naval architecture, and engineered like an aircraft: what more can one ask of masterful architecture? Upon entering, I was awed: this building is engineered like a symphony but experienced like a late quartet. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has come to represent a rare unity between technique and expression. It is what happens when the soul of a city in Basque Country meets the spirit of the time; when the timeless overlaps with the timely. In that sense, it represents a moment of inevitability in architectural design, the mark of a masterpiece.

from its inception as a sketch on a napkin to its opening in 1997 and now its 20th anniversary. Like the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright building, it is a catalyst for artistic brilliance. Exhibitions need to rise to the occasion when presented in its flowing, organic galleries, and artists respond to its architecture in expansive, paradigm-changing ways. Bilbao, itself, has grown around the building to embrace and reflect its unprecedented design. The residents making their evening stroll around the museum, which, more than anything, proves to me its power of attraction and its rightful place as an architectural anchor in the still-evolving city.

Twenty years on, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao continues to affect. Its magic is best understood when considering that it seems to have fallen from the sky. It may resemble an asteroid, but its mechanics parallel what Jacques Vallée says of UFOs: its reality lies in the way it affects our imagination. This is the oldest trick in the architect’s book, yet it is rarely achieved. It is precisely what distinguishes architecture from building.


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Top 5 Things to do in Vienna

One of the great European capitals, Vienna was for centuries the stomping ground for the Habsburg rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The empire is long gone, but reminders have been carefully preserved by the tradition-loving Viennese. Past artistic glories live on, thanks to the cultural legacy of the many artistic geniuses nourished here—including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Gustav Klimt. Today’s visitors discover a city with a special grace and a cohesive architectural character that sets it so memorably apart from its great rivals—London, Paris, and Rome.

1. St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Towering above the streets of the Innere Stadt, this massive cathedral is the true centerpiece of Vienna. St. Stephen’s has stood in this very spot since the early 12th century, but little remains of the original aside from the Riesentor (Giant’s Gate) and the Heidentuerme (Towers of the Heathens).

The Gothic structure standing today was built in the early 1300s and has survived the Turkish siege of 1683. St. Stephen’s Cathedral is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Entry to the main section is free, but you’ll have to shell out around 5 euros (about $6) to visit the catacombs or climb the towers.

2. Museum of Fine Arts

The works at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, or Museum of Fine Arts, range from ancient Egyptian and Greek objects to masterpieces by numerous European masters, including Titian, Velasquez, Van Dyke and Rubens. In fact, the collection here is so extensive that many people say the walls of the Hofburg Palace look bare in comparison. The building itself, which opened to the public in 1891, impresses travelers as well; its facade features ornate sculptures.

Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday evenings. During the summer, the museum is open daily and operates the same hours. Admission (which includes entry to the Imperial Treasury at the Hofburg Palace complex) is 15 euros (around $17) for adults and guided and audio tours cost 4 euros (about $5) extra.

3. Schonbrunn Palace

Originally constructed in 1696 as a hunting lodge, Schonbrunn Palace later became the official Hapsburg summer residence. Under the supervision of Maria Theresa (the only female Hapsburg ruler), Schonbrunn evolved into an expansive paradise with ornate rooms and vast elaborate gardens comparable to King Louis XIV of France’s palace at Versailles.

Schonbrunn Palace is open daily at 8:30 a.m. (closing times vary depending on the season). Admission ranges from around 14 to 20 euros (about $16 to $23) for adults and about 10 to 12 euros ($11 to $14) for children, depending on what type of tour you select and whether you’ll be using a guide. You’ll have to pay a few euros extra to explore certain areas of the gardens.

4. Tiergarten

Today, Tiergarten is the oldest zoo in the world, home to about 750 animal species (around 8,500 animals total) ranging from tigers to lemurs. The zoo hosts daily animal talks and feedings that visitors can watch, with animals like orangutans, elephants, penguins and otters.

Since its founding, Tiergarten has undergone many a renovation to bring it up to par with modern facilities. Travelers say that while the cost of admission is on the pricey side, it’s worth it to see the variety of animals and impressive facilities at this zoo. Tiergarten – located on the Schonbrunn Palace grounds – is open every day at 9 a.m.; closing times (usually sometime from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) vary by season. Admission is 18.50 euros (or around $20)

5. Hofburg Palace

Sitting on the southwestern edge of the Innere Stadt, the 13th-century palace shelters several individual attractions, and if you want the full royal experience, you’ll need to spend at least half a day here. Experienced travelers say it’s best to start in the middle of this massive complex and work your way out. The oldest parts surround the Swiss Court, named for the Swiss guards who used to patrol the area. And from there you’ll find the Kaiserappartements (Imperial Apartments), more than 2,000 rooms where the royal family lived.

Only a dozen or so are open to the public. Take some time to explore the Kaiserappartements‘ Sisi Museum, which offers insight into the life and death of Vienna’s beloved Empress Elizabeth. Then swing by the Imperial Silver Collection or the butterfly house. The Hofburg Palace is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5:30 or 6 p.m. depending on the season. Prices vary depending on which attractions you wish to see. Visit the palace’s main website to plan your visit.


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The Top 5 Things to Do in Valencia

Spain’s third-largest city is a magnificent place, content for Madrid and Barcelona to grab the headlines while it gets on with being a wonderfully livable city with thriving cultural, eating and nightlife scenes. Never afraid to innovate, Valencia diverted its flood-prone river to the outskirts of town and converted the former riverbed into a superb green ribbon of park winding right through the city. On it are the strikingly futuristic buildings of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, designed by local boy Santiago Calatrava. Other brilliant contemporary buildings grace the city, which also has a fistful of fabulous Modernist architecture, great museums and a large, characterful old quarter. Valencia, surrounded by its huerta, a fertile fruit-and-veg farmland, is famous as the home of rice dishes such as paella, but its buzzy dining scene offers plenty more besides.

1. art and science city

Valencia’s most famous tourist attraction is the weird-but-wonderful City of Arts and Sciences complex. The complex consists of several buildings for cultural and educational activities, including a science museum, aquarium, planetarium and IMAX cinema. Designed by local celebrity architect Santiago Calatrava, it’s perhaps the most iconic symbol of the city. Inside the Turia river bed (now converted into a park), the City of Arts and Sciences towers over the city as this strange, alien-like series of structures. It’s free to wander around and great for a selfie, but if you want to see the inside, you’ll have to book a ticket to one of the different attractions.

2. Valencia Cathedral and The Holy Grail

One of the cities’ more controversial claims to fame is that it has what is supposed to be the Holy Grail, the actual cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper, the cathedral is a lovely old place and well worth visiting. You can actually climb to the top of the Miguelete bell tower and admire great views of the city. Inside the cathedral, the Holy Grail is one of the must-see attractions for those of a religious following. Legend has it that the cup traveled from Rome centuries ago. However, when the Muslim rulers took over Spain, it was placed into hiding for centuries and only returned to the city in 1427 by the gloriously named King ‘Alfonso the Magnanimous’.

3. La Lonja

This splendid building, a Unesco World Heritage site, was originally Valencia’s silk and commodity exchange, built in the late 15th century when Valencia was booming. It’s one of Spain’s finest examples of a civil Gothic building. Two main structures flank a citrus-studded courtyard: the magnificent Sala de Contratación, a cathedral of commerce with soaring twisted pillars, and the Consulado del Mar, where a maritime tribunal sat. The top floor boasts a stunning coffered ceiling brought here from another building.

4. Museo de Bellas Artes

Bright and spacious, this gallery ranks among Spain’s best. Highlights include a collection of magnificent late-medieval altarpieces, and works by several Spanish masters, including some great Goya portraits, a haunting Velázquez selfie, an El Greco John the Baptist, Murillos, Riberas and works by the Ribaltas, father and son. Downstairs, an excellent series of rooms focuses on the great, versatile Valencian painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863–1923), who, at his best, seemed to capture the spirit of an age through sensitive portraiture.

5. Bioparc

This zoo devoted solely to African animals has an educational and conservationist remit and an unusual approach. Though, as always, the confinement in limited spaces of creatures like gorillas raises mixed feelings, the innovative landscaping is certainly a thrill. The absence of obvious fences makes it seem that animals roam free as you wander from savannah to equatorial landscapes. Aardvarks, leopards and hippos draw crowds but most magical is Madagascar, where large-eyed lemurs gambol around your feet among waterfalls and grass.


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