Design + Architecture

The Visionaries

by Suzanne Wales

In 1997, when Frank Gehry unveiled his very funky curving titanium museum in a backwater city in northern Spain ("Bil_where?"), few would have predicted the impact the building would have on both architecture and tourism. Ten years later, the so-called "Bilbao Effect"—the idea that a mid-tier city can boost tourism by hiring big-name architects to give it a design makeover—has been applied in destinations from Milwaukee and Minneapolis to Newcastle, England, and Abu Dhabi. The results have been mixed, but there's no question that sensational new architecture gets some people excited enough to get on a plane. So to mark the Guggenheim's tenth anniversary, we took a closer look at the skyline-altering projects that Gehry and his razzle-dazzle colleagues have created, as well as what they've got on the drawing board. From Herzog & de Meuron's Olympic Stadium in Beijing to Thom Mayne's otherworldly Phare Tower in Paris (which will be taller than the Eiffel Tower), we haven't seen a bigger boom in massive public projects since Ancient Rome. Which gives you new reasons to visit both the cities you've never thought of as interesting and those you claim to know like the back of your hand. Just think of Bilbao's Guggenheim as the shining example.

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