January 09, 2006 /

Guggenheim Bilbao
Bilbao, Spain
On view: October 28, 2005 - February 19, 2006

1archicsulpture.jpgPhoto © Thomas Mayer
Guggenheim Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry

Dialogues between Architecture and Sculpture from the 18th Century to the Present Day.

Revolutionary innovations in construction and project design offered by new digital technologies, coupled with the development of new materials, have enabled architects to create buildings with the most unusual and evocative shapes.

What is archisculpture?

Bilbao was one of the first to discover that attractive sculptural architecture could serve as an effective "marketing" tool for attracting attention and luring visitors to the city, a strategy known the world over as "the Bilbao effect".

A number of buildings have followed in the footsteps of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao "archisculpture", including Jean Nouvel's "Torre Agbar" in Barcelona, OMA's (Rem Koolhaas) "Casa da Musica" in Porto (2005), Santiago Calatrava's "Turning Torso" (2005) in Malmø, and Zaha Hadid's new Phaeno Science Centre (2005) in Wolfsburg.

2archicsulpture.jpgPhoto © Thomas Mayer
Torre Agbar designed by Jean Nouvel

3archicsulpture.jpgPhoto © Charlie Koolhaas
Casa da Musica designed by Rem Koolhaas

The exhibition traces the relationship between sculpture and architecture from the eighteenth century to the present, bringing together a selection of 180 sculptures, paintings, and models of buildings, by some 60 artists and 50 architects.

4archicsulpture.jpgNewton's Cenotaph (1784) designed by Etienne-Louis Boullée.

 5archicsulpture.jpgPhaeno Science Centre designed by Zaha Hadid'

Works by renowned sculptors are placed beside architectural models allowing visitors to draw direct comparisons between the two disciplines, and demonstrating how important the paradigmatic function of modern sculpture is to today's concept of space and computer-animated design.

6archicsulpture.jpgPhoto courtesy Museo Chillida-Leku
The Poet's House (1980)
Eduardo Chillida (1924 - 2002)

7archicsulpture.jpgPhoto: Robert Bayer, Basle
Jean (Hans) Arp (1886 - 1966)
Tree of Bowls (1960)
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basle

Organized in ten chapters, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey from the itinerary works by the pioneers of modern sculpture - Maillol, Rodin, Matisse - set against the four main styles in the history of architecture: archaic/Romanesque, Classical, Gothic, and Baroque.

Visitors have the opportunity to follow how modern sculpture, since its inception around 1900, has absorbed key impulses from the history of architecture: for example, the tectonic composition of Aristide Maillol's figures shows the influence of classicism, while the Gothic style left its imprint on Rodin and Russian Constructivism.

Kazimir Malevich's composition "Architektons" (ca. 1920), of white rectangular blocks, take on a completely new historical meaning when juxtaposed against models by Viennese architects Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann built a few years earlier, Architektons take on a completely new historical meaning.

8archicsulpture.jpgPhoto: Hans Joachim Heyer and Boris Miklautsch
Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935)

9archicsulpture.jpgPhoto courtesy Guggenheim Bilbao
Stoclet Palace (1911) designed by Josef Hoffman

"Why, it is my studio!" exclaimed Constantin Brancusi upon first seeing the Manhattan skyline from a ship in 1926. Brancusi is one of those who exceeded this proportionality of scale, defining architecture as a scaleless enlargement of sculptures or design objects, a practice common today for good and for bad.

10archicsulpture.jpgPhoto courtesy
Constantin Brancusi (1876 - 1957)

11archicsulpture.jpgPhoto courtesy Santiago Calatrava archives
"Turning Torso" (2005) designed by Santiago Calatrava

12archicsulpture.jpgPhoto © Thomas Mayer
Bilbao Guggenheim (1997) designed by Frank Gehry

Sculpture became more constructive and tectonic, establishing a connection with the geometric designs of the International Style and, the same time, architecture was becoming more sculptural.

The expressive architecture of Bruno Taut, Erich Mendelsohn or Rudolf Steiner has defined the proximity between anthropomorphous architecture and figurative sculpture to present day, including the Blob architecture of Greg Lynn and Lars Spuybroek.

13archicsulpture.jpg Photo courtesy Guggenheim Bilbao
Einstein Tower (1921) designed by Erich Mendelsohn

14archicsulpture.jpgPhoto courtesy Lars Spuybroek
Son-O-House designed by NOX (2004)

The pre-World War II era, was known as an " Age of Sculpture". Le Corbusier created the Ronchamp chapel (1955) and Frank Lloyd Wright designed his organic spiral for the Guggenheim Museum (1957). The curved walls in Gallery provided an ideal setting for the so-called "sculptural style" in the history of architecture.

15archicsulpture.jpgPhoto: Tobias Adam
Ronchamp designed by Le Corbusier

16archicsulpture.jpgPhoto: Erika Ede
Guggenheim New York designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

The hottest controversy today is the factional dispute between advocates of Box and Blob. The debate is documented by a confrontation between Greg Lynn's Embryological Houses and a reinterpretation of Jean Nouvel's Monolith (2004); a cube that raises the idea of the Box to a radical, hieratic monumentality.

17archicsulpture.jpgPhoto © Greg Lynn FORM
Greg Lynn House

18archicsulpture.jpgPhoto © Michael Fontana, Basle
Monolith designed by Jean Nouvel

The most recent blobmeister architecture has taken the relationship between sculpture and architecture to an entirely new plateau.

In view of its creativity and use of advanced technologies, might contemporary architecture be seen as a continuation of the history of sculpture by other means?

The mission of ArchiSculpture is to demonstrate that rather than cannibalistic, relationships between architecture and sculpture over the centuries have been and continue to be fruitful.

ArchiSculpture first opened to the public in winter 2004-05 at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen near Basel, Switzerland, and will move to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany in spring 2006 after closing in Bilbao.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalog featuring works in the exhibition as well as numerous reference paintings, sculptures, and architectural designs.


Guggenheim Bilbao

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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