"Along with the regeneration of the river and the construction of Norman Foster’s metro, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao—the fabulous work of Frank O. Gehry, a great architect and friend of our city—marked the starting point of a new chapter in the city's history. Few projects have been preceded by as much controversy as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, but reality has shown that the commitment of the Basque institutions was right on track.
Identified as the icon of new Bilbao, its effect on the city was extraordinary, in the first place due to the fact that it constitutes a first-rate cultural element worldwide; in the second for its remarkable contribution to its economic regeneration and boost to the services sector; thirdly, it was key to the city's internationalization process; and, fourthly, it gave the locals renewed faith in the future following the depression they suffered with the crisis of the traditional industrial sectors. All of this has been coined as the ‘Guggenheim effect’ or the “Bilbao effect.”
The Museum stands in an area known as “Campa de los Ingleses,” the place where ships coming from the British Isles would dock.
The site was later occupied by a steam-powered sawmill owned by the Compañía de Maderas, one of the biggest companies in Bilbao a century ago, largely dedicated to sawing and drying trunks coming from Norwegian forests for their subsequent commercialization.
This has therefore always been a space related to innovation in Bilbao, a former port area that offers visitors the immense artistic treasure of that imposing titanium ship dreamt up by Gehry and materialized thanks to a strong commitment to the future that has forever changed the history of our city."
Ibon Areso. Mayor of Bilbao