Chapter

The Bilbao Effect: Ethical Symbolic Representation

Dean MacCannell

in The Ethics of Sightseeing

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780520257825
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948655 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257825.003.0010
The Bilbao Effect: Ethical Symbolic Representation

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This chapter argues that the origins, context, and form of Frank Gehry constitute an ethical strategy of symbolic representation for tourists on a grand scale. The Guggenheim Bilbao is the embodiment of creative risk taking, human exigency, and persistence in the face of uncertainty. Gehry's building is not superficially referential or casually symbolic in the way a Disney cartoon house is symbolic. Gehry's building rigorously and accurately models the structure of the symbol itself. Today, tourists who visit Spain think about going to Bilbao and express disappointment if they miss it. The people of Bilbao, even those who were displaced to make room for the museum, take pride in it and embrace it as their own. The initial design for the Guggenheim Bilbao was originally sketched for a Disney project. The Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles might have been first to receive this symbolic treatment.

Keywords: Frank Gehry; Guggenheim Bilbao; symbolic representation; Disney; tourists; Spain

Chapter.  3023 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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