Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Achieving the "Bilbao Effect" in Owensboro

As community leaders in Owensboro are focusing on the design of the newly planned Downtown Events Center and contemplating ideas for a new version of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, how important is the design of these amenities to the overall success of revitalizing the downtown and the overall region?

Just ask the once declining city of Bilbao, Spain.   This sleepy, seaside, former industrial city in Northern Spain gets a new museum housed in a building already called--on its completion at the end of the 20th century--the most important building of the 21st. The museum is Frank Gehry's Guggenheim. Virtually overnight, the small city became one of the most popular destinations in Europe. From all reports, Bilbao is rapidly metamorphosing from a sort of one-hit wonder to a genuinely vibrant city with restaurants, nightlife, theatre, and art. Gehry's radical, shimmering metal building has become a source of immense civic pride.

Called the "Bilbao Effect," great architecture should be the centerpiece of urban space. Whether religious, governmental, commercial, or cultural, buildings define their cities.  This is our chance to have a world class building on the world class river that runs through this city.   Given the strength of the proposals and the architectural talent from around the country interested in the project-- world class is possible.  Such a "Bilbao effect" could benefit the region culturally and economically for a long time to come.

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