Frank Gehry: Bilbao hated Guggenheim plans

American architect says world-famous building won over Spanish

Frank Gehry has designed the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
Frank Gehry has designed the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

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US architect Frank Gehry said that the people of Bilbao hated his designs for the Guggenheim before it was built – but that it has since become almost universally loved in the Spanish city.

Gehry, who has designed the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island, told an American men’s magazine that steelworkers, dockworkers and other unions took to the streets when his plans were unveiled, and there was even a threatening message posted in the local newspaper.

“They didn’t want it built. They hated it. They were appalled. They didn’t understand it. They didn’t want the change it represented,” Gehry told Playboy magazine.

Now that it’s built they run over and want their pictures taken with me. ‘Señor Gehry, Señor Gehry!’ I should live there. It’s a love-in.”

During the interview, Gehry commented on his favourite architects and buildings, praising Beijing CCTV tower designer Rem Koolhaas and Sheikh Zayed Bridge architect Zaha Hadid, as well as the Bird’s Nest Stadium in the Chinese capital.

He also elaborated on his comments during 2010, when he ignited a row over green architecture by criticizing the LEED process. Gehry said he felt that architects like himself and Frank Lloyd Wright had been practising sustainable architecture for many years.

“Many people put a green button on their collar and feel good, just like a lot of people put an American flag on their lapels and feel patriotic. It’s not enough,” he said.

“I’ve been concerned about these issues since the 1960. For years good architects were dealing with environmentally responsible design—materials, energy efficiency, all that—before it became a trend. Frank Lloyd Wright always did. I just don’t think it’s enough to solve this monumental problem. We have to do more.”

A selection of Gehry’s comments were published in the Chicago Tribune.
 

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