The Design and Construction Phases of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Category: Design, Museum
Last Updated: 12 Mar 2023
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“The thing I personally look for is an architectural thought that stands a nice opportunity of lasting the planning system, clients demands, value technology and all the other hurdlings that it will face”
Francis Golding

The procedure when organizing a edifice is divided into two cardinal phases: The design stage and the building stage, which since the 1990’s have been tightly linked through contractual agreements. Depending on legion factors, such as budget and the type of procurance chosen, either side can be dramatically affected by the other. As a consequence the finished merchandise may non be to the satisfaction of the client, stakeholders or the companies involved. An illustration of a edifice in which both of these stages were completed successfully in every facet is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, by Frank O. Gehry and Associates ( FOG/A ) .

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The Client and Advisers

The Guggenheim was a really big graduated table undertaking which was commissioned in 1993 by Consorcio Museo Guggenheim ( CMG ) . This group comprised of the Basque authorities ( Regional ) and the Vizcaya Government ( Provincial ) . They were responsible for funding the undertaking, and the municipality of Bilbao ( Local Government ) donated the site ( REF ) The ground that the authorities proposed to construct an art gallery of such importance, with an iconic designer, was due to the fact that the metropolis of Bilbao was falling into diminution. There was an pressing demand to set building undertakings into action that would renew the country. ( REF )

Because a great trade of money was invested ( ?77m ) a big measure of people involved in both the design and building stages were working for the authorities. CMG put together a squad which oversaw the full procedure, which included:

  • Legal Consultant
  • Financial Controller
  • Communicationss Director
  • Design Adviser( REF )

Their function, as a foundation, was confer withing and doing certain the undertaking was run intoing their aims. They had “everyday decision-making power” as they were the client. ( Harvard )

Besides confer withing on with the design and building squads was the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York. They needed someplace to house their unobserved art aggregation – they made a trade with CMG to lend it ( at a cost ) , and partnered with them to make an administration called the Guggenheim Foundation. This gave them entree to the trade name name, Guggenheim.

Besides involved in the undertaking were IDOM, employed as executive designers. ( ref ) They had huge cognition of big scale building. The structural applied scientists were Skidmore, Owings and Merrill ( SOM ) , who besides consulted in the undertaking and formed portion of the design squad.


CMG established a clear set of demands for IDOM to run into:

  1. `` The Executive Architect ( IDOM ) shall be responsible for run intoing the mark cost, with a fiscal punishment if it is exceeded.
  2. The museum shall open to the populace before the terminal of 1997.
  3. The museum shall be completed utilizing the highest quality edifice criterions.
  4. The Executive Architect shall maximize the usage of local employees and stuffs for building.
  5. The Executive Architect shall ease the Design Architect’s creativity.”( ref )

To accomplish these marks, chiefly the clip restraint and rigorous budget, it would necessitate careful thought into how the edifice work would be procured. Another factor that had to be considered was that Gehry’s design was ambitious, and utilizing traditional procurance methods would non run into these ends, particularly as FOG/A’s architectural linguistic communication was “less and less derivative of current practice” ( Tombesi, 2002 ) and the fact that “80 % of the building systems and stuffs used in the Bilbao Guggenheim undertaking were wholly advanced in the edifice industry.” ( Harvard p5 )

The design had been efficaciously modelled on the package plan, Catia, antecedently used in the aerospace industry. This was another component that influenced the pick of procurance as it would significantly rush up both the design and the building phase. It would better design communicating between all the companies involved, as the theoretical account could be invariably updated to feed information to all contractors. ( REF ) “One of the cardinal factors in building was the monolithic usage of CAD engineering, something reasonably unusual in architecture. Without this engineering, the Bilbao Guggenheim would still be under building today” ( Harvard p16 )

FOG/A and IDOM decided on seamster doing the contract for the Guggenheim. They required contractors input early on in the design stage so that an effectual theoretical account could be created, that would be every bit near as possible to the architect’s vision, but could besides be constructed precisely like the theoretical account. This would overlap the design and the building processes, and would make more clip to acquire the museum built. However, Tombesi ( 2002 ) cites that due to the fact that it was an institutional and grand-scale public edifice, by jurisprudence they had to use one general contractor. IDOM had experience in big scale undertakings and their method of pull offing them was by dividing the contractual occupations. They managed to carry the public committees deputy in Bilbao that this was the best manner ( Harvard p3 )

FOG/A and IDOM divided the contractual occupations, and called them ‘paquetes’ :

  • Destruction
  • Foundations
  • Structure
  • Outsides
  • Insides and Installations
  • Urban Infrastructure
  • Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment

After this they began ‘the petition for proposals’ phase. FOG/A prepared preliminary certification which outlined the rudimentss of the design and what was required for each of these paquetes, and sent these off to groups of contractors who could perchance execute these specializer occupations. The method of taking who to direct these to was a challenge for IDOM.

“I was looking for contractors [ … ] who were willing to larn how to construct the undertaking instead than being stiff in adhering to their usual methodologies.” ( Harvard )

The groups who were chosen were comparatively little as “no contractor in the universe had of all time built a undertaking like Bilbao Guggenheim.” ( Harvard ) In response the contractors would subject proposals with elaborate proficient information and how much they could make the undertaking for. ( Tombesi, 2002 )

The contract was named the ‘design-assist process’ ( Figure 1 ) . ( Tombesi, 2002 ) In the diagram, it explains the initial designs and preliminary certification formed by FOG/A and IDOM for a individual paquete. The following phase was to direct out these paperss to contractors ( bomber ) and so take which to use after they have submitted their proposals. In the diagram it shows that FOG/A reimbursed the contractors who were non chosen. After they chose the contractor they had a period of 90 yearss to develop the design with the whole of the design squad. If they fulfilled the contract by the terminal of this so they would be awarded their ‘lump sum’ .

A job that IDOM had with these custom-made paquetes was specifically to make with the exterior design. Five companies met the specifications/requirements which IDOM needed to do the building of the complex outside possible ; These companies were sent command paperss and invited to subject proposals. Three of these companies responded, but all were over the set budget. The jurisprudence restricted IDOM from taking any of these proposals despite pricing, so a new petition for commands was issued. IDOM besides teamed up with the staying contractors to clear up design and pricing so that doing this command was possible. Two companies matched the mark cost this clip about and the determination was made, with the aid of CMG, to take Balzola ( a spot about the company? ) ( HARVARD )

The initial pick for the cladding stuff of the Guggenheim was hand-polished chromium steel steel, so the first command paperss were organised with this merchandise in head. However FOG/A were diffident that it was the appropriate stuff for the occupation, and were fighting to happen options that would execute good and look aesthetically delighting. Leaded Cu was an option but IDOM were dying that lead would be washed from the rain into the milieus. Therefore Ti became the perfect merchandise to replace the chromium steel steel. The lone exclusion was the disbursal, as it was non an low-cost stuff. Fortunately, big measures of it had merely been released onto the market at the right clip for it to be used on the Guggenheim, dramatically cut downing the monetary value. This made it low-cost plenty to suit into the mark cost.

The Budget

The budget or mark cost of the Guggenheim Bilbao was agreed with the client to be 14,028M Pestas, or ?77m in lbs. As a method of run intoing this end and commanding the money spent, IDOM established a system which tracked outgo at regular intervals. This was a elaborate cost estimation, calculated every six hebdomads so that the design squad could compare their advancement to it and entree their design determinations. If their programs exceeded this estimation, so steps would be taken to rapidly propose alternate ways of making the same thing. ( HARVARD )

An illustration of where the cost estimations helped forestall a serious escalation in disbursals was when SOM, the structural applied scientists, sent off to IDOM information on the structural capablenesss of the geometric volumes. A communicating mistake resulted in an underestimate of the weight of the steel frame, and this caused an addition in costs. However, because of the regular cost estimations, this addition was noticed rapidly and early on. This made it possible for the design squad to do a fast response, which involved changing the mark cost and a few facets of the design to maintain within the budget and on agenda. ( HARVARD ) Without this procedure set in topographic point, little inaccuracies would hold been much harder to descry and would hold perchance become much larger mistakes as the undertaking continued.


In the building stages, everything went swimmingly as the clear communicating of CAD drawings helped contractors and builders understand the design phase. Equally good as this, the imbrication of the design and building stages had sizably reduced the clip it took to finish the undertaking.

However, during the concluding phases of building, timing became a challenge. The exhibitions needed at least six months to be fitted into the edifice, and could non be installed without protection from the exterior. The exterior and interior undertakings needed to be complete for this to be possible. IDOM and FOG/A responded to this job by overlapping the stages of the exterior and interior undertakings even further and the agendas of the contractors involved were reviewed and reorganised to maximize the sum of clip they had staying. ( Harvard ) for illustration, “Balzola was expected to temporarily cover unfinished countries to screen the interiors.” ( HARVARD ) This response allowed work to be completed with synergism.

In decision, the Guggenheim Bilbao was an advanced undertaking at the clip it was built, an illustration of one of the first big graduated table edifices to include CAD in both stages. IDOM and FOG/A custom-made every measure of the design to accommodate its formation, such as the ‘request for packages’ procurance path, and this is what finally granted it the position of an iconic edifice. It “demonstrates a manner of interacting with trade specializers before the completion of contract paperss, and without interrupting competitory tendering.” ( Tombesi 2002 ) And this contributed to meeting:

  • The clients demands
  • The budget
  • The deadline
  • And doing a high quality edifice

Besides Gehry, as a consequence, had the design freedom to do his vision be constructed precisely as he saw it in his head. On the whole it demonstrates that the system defines the quality, clip and cost of the terminal consequence, every bit good as the input from people working as a squad contributing towards the same end. Although it was something no-one had of all time tried before, and some parts seemed like test and mistake, the edifice was successful in every facet. Every hurdle they faced was met by a strong squad of people.

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The Design and Construction Phases of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. (2017, Jul 12). Retrieved from

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