Perspectives on the Guggenheim’s Museums: Bilboa as Proto-BIM

The recent proposal for a Guggenheim in Helsinki inspired the Tocci team to reflect on the organization’s museums.

New Yorker critic, Paul Goldberger, once wrote that the Guggenheim Bilbao was, “truly a signal moment in the architectural culture.” In the world of Tocci it was a signal moment for VDC, as well. Ghery Partners’ daring formal feats with Catia (a software, prior to Bilbao, used mainly for fighter jets) not only showed architects what was possible with parametric modeling, but also pointed toward a new process for design. A process in which the architect begins working directly (albeit virtually) with the construction materials in a way that the reductive conventions of orthographic drawing simply did not permit.

In the new (let’s call it Gherian) paradigm the architect works iteratively, feeding form to a modeling staff that develops ever more complex parameters based on increasingly comprehensive aesthetic, material and constructability information. These parameters translate the architect’s form into validated possibility. The Gherian paradigm is one of constructive dialogue between design intent and the (virtual) realities of building. Because of Catia and a brilliant staff, Ghery knew how structural steel, titanium cladding, and stone would comply, or resist, his forms.

Guggenheim Bilbao exemplifies the success of a brilliant designer and a brilliant VDC department. Ghery Partners created a VDC infrastructure capable of translating the Ghery napkin sketch and sketch model into buildable reality.

Best of all it worked. Not only did the museum cement Frank Ghery’s status as an icon of contemporary architecture, it was also famously on schedule and within budget ($300/sf). All in all, a pretty good ROI for VDC.

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