Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. Future challenges in post-industrial Bilbao

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. Future challenges in post-industrial Bilbao

Submission ID:


Ending its process of transition between eras, from the industrial to the post-industrial, the City of Bilbao (Spain), is an example of rapid physical and emotional mutation, going, in just three decades, from being one of the most industrialized cities in Europe, to a paradigmatic example of urban and landscape transformation, with major operations of neo-urbanism. Its identity as a city has gone from being related to its industrial essence to projecting an image of avant-garde urbanism and a mecca of contemporary culture, driven by the so-called Guggenheim effect. This new post-industrial Bilbao aims to position itself in the global market of brand cities, with the aim of attracting major international events and cultural and gastronomic tourism.
In this context, the strengths and weaknesses of the project to extend the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum (BFAM) are analysed from the point of view of art. After the public competition called to face the enlargement of the main public art museum in the city, the project presented by Foster+Partners + LM Uriarte Arkitektura, led by the prestigious architect Norman Foster, was selected. According to the Board of Trustees that manages the BFAM, the objectives of this extension are to promote the organizational modernization and physical expansion of the institution. In this new strategic vision, the most significant action is the expansion of the museum's operating space by 8,000 m2. This article questions the real need for this expansion and the architectural fit of Foster's project in the city and with respect to the pre-existing building complex. In addition, there are issues that affect the identity of the BFAM and its emotional relationship with the city; such as the alteration, relocation and resignification of Plaza of the Arriaga monument, which has become an iconographic reference for Bilbao; or the proposal to resize the exhibition spaces, which go from forming a labyrinthine structure of small rooms, similar to museums

Corresponding Author

Alberto Salcedo

University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU

Author #1:


University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU

Author #2:

Author #3:

Author #4:

Preferred Track

10. Urban analytics and city design

Second Preferred Track

7. Urban competitiveness and social challenges