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Syllabus for BASQ 466/666:
Museums, Architecture, City Renewal: The Bilbao Guggenheim

(Crosslisted as ANTH 413/613 / ART 466/666)

Prof. Joseba Zulaika
Office: Center for Basque Studies (GL 281)
Phone: 784.4854

Course Goals
What strategies should cities mobilize to regain economic prosperity after the demise of their old industrial bases? What is the role of arts, architecture, museums and cultural industries in regenerating urban centers? What are the defining features of the new “global postmodern” space in which cities have to compete? What is meant by neologisms such as the “disneyfication,” the “mcdonaldization,” and the “las vegasing” of society? Why has architecture become such a dominant artistic form in the 1990s, and is this sustainable after the September 11 events? What are the positive as well as negative consequences of the globalization model imposed by the Guggenheim for the museum as a cultural institution? These are some of the questions we will be grappling with during this seminar course.

Course Description
A decade ago the Guggenheim Museum embarked on an ambitious project to create a transnational museum with franchises in Venice, Bilbao, Berlin, and Las Vegas. It was the opening of the spectacular Bilbao franchise, designed by Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry, that brought to the world’s attention the true scope of the Guggenheim’s aims under its director Krens. The new building not only put Bilbao on the map, but showed to everyone what architecture could do to change the image and the touristic appeal of a postindustrial city. Suddenly every city in the world wanted a Guggenheim Bilbao. Thus, the study of this “Guggenheim effect” has become obligatory in the departments of architecture, museum studies, urban renewal, or tourism. Bilbao’s fin de millennium has become the paradigmatic example of the interdependencies between museum culture, the international art market, spectacular architecture, tourism, the politics of local identities, urban regeneration discourse, the media, late capitalist strategies, and the promotional selling of national images in a postmodern world.

The approach of the course is multidisciplinary: cultural studies, anthropology, urbanism and architecture, museum and popular culture. These fields will all be brought to bear for contextualizing the creation, decline and regeneration of cities. The student must read the literature perceptively, get an understanding of the relevant issues, and develop a perspective from where to view and judge the contemporary cultural and political transformations. We will also look comparatively at other American and European cities with similar problems of urban regeneration.

Course Requirements
Seminar members are expected to read the text, participate in the class discussions, and occasionally make a presentation. Every three weeks each student will post on WebCT a short paper of 5 pages (undergraduates) or 7 pages (graduates). The mechanics of the WebCT online format are simple and we will learn them by demonstration during the first seminar. Engagement in written debates by replying to the postings of other seminar participants is highly encouraged.

Additional work to be done by graduate students:
Graduate students, in addition to meeting all the requirements of the undergraduates, will be expected to participate in the class significantly more than undergraduates. They will be expected to initiate discussion. Their contribution should go beyond simply relating ideas found in the class texts and include original thinking. In order to achieve deeper understanding of the materials presented, the graduates must write longer papers  reflecting more in-depth research and a stronger theoretical component.

Weighting of assignments:

Project Undergraduates Graduates
Response papers 30% 25%
Research paper 20% 30%
Take-home midterm exam 20% 10%
Final exam 20% 20%
Class participation 10% 15%

Week One
Presentation and organization of the seminar course.

Week Two
“Miracle in Bilbao”

Herbert Muschamp, “The Miracle in Bilbao,” New York Times Magazine, Sept. 7, 1997, pp.56-59, 72, 82.

Joseba Zulaika, “Krens’s Taj Mahal: The Guggenheim’s Global Love Museum,” Discourse, 23.1:100-118.

ABC Nightline video

The seminar will be devoted to the impact of the Guggenheim Museum on the international image of Bilbao and to the interaction of local and global cultures in the creation of an emblematic building. Will also examine the role of the Media in defining and promoting the new architecture and the new global museum.

Week Three   
“Tough City/Soft City: Bilbao as Ruin, Architecture and Allegory”

Joseba Zulaika, “Tough Beauty: Bilbao as Ruin, Architecture and Allegory.”

Jon Bird, “Dystopia on the Thames.” In J. Bird, et al., Mapping the Futures, Routledge, 1993.

Sheldon Waldrep, “Monuments to Walt.”  In The Disney Project, Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World, Duke University Press, Durham, 1995.

Paul Goldberger, “The Politics of Building,” The New Yorker, Oct. 21, 1997.

“That Old Bilbao Moon”

Sharon Zukin, “Disney World: The Power of Façade/ The Façade of Power.” In her Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1991.

We will discuss Gehry’s view of Bilbao as a “tough city” characterized by its “aesthetics of reality,” as opposed to Disney’s aesthetics. At the same time we will consider Bilbao officials’ attempts at making of Bilbao a “soft city.” Our goal is to become aware of the “politics of building” being played out in Bilbao with Gehry’s grand architecture.

Week Four
“Industrialization, Post-Industrialization and Globalization”

Max Weber, letter to his mother from Bilbao.

Eduardo Glas, “General Economic Development” (Chapter 3 of his Bilbao’s Modern Business Elite, Univ. of Nevada, Reno, 1997).

Frederick Buell, “The Three Worlds” (Chapter 1 of his National Culture and the New Global System, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1994).

Prof. Joseba Gabilondo will critically review Hardt and Negri’s Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000).

Erik Wolf, “Industrial Revolution” and “The New Laborers” (Chapters 9 and 12 of his Europe and the People Without History, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1982).

Raymond Williams, “Country and City” and “Pastoral and Counter-Pastoral” (Chapters 1 and 3 of his The Country and the City, Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1973).

In this seminar we will get introduced to a global view of economic and cultural history, and we will situate Bilbao and its Guggenheim Museum within that history. We will raise the initial questions as to the dilemmas, complicities, challenges and opportunities presented by a globalized world to traditional cultures and postindustrial economies. We will recognize the necessities of urban and economic renewal within this newly globalized world. Attention will be paid to the symbiotic relationship between the English industrial revolution and Bilbao, as well as between Bilbao on its Basque hinterland.

Week Five
The Necessity of Ruins: The Titanic, Decadent Venice, and the Guggenheim and Bilbao Legacies

Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” In his Illuminations, Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., New York, 1968.

Susan Buck-Morss, “Historical Nature: Ruin.” In her The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1989.

Justin Crumbaugh, “An aesthetics of Industrial Ruins in Bilbao: Calparsoro’s Leap into the Void (Salto al vacío) and the Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa.”

H.R. Lottman, “Venice as a Challenge.” In Lottman, How Cities Are Saved, Universe Books, 1976.

VIDEOS on Bilbao’s ruins

Sketches from the films Death in Venice and Leap into the Void.

John Davis, The Guggenheims: An American Epic.

We will consider Benjamin’s view of history as decay and ruin as a critical counterpoint to the modern sense of history as endless progress. We will focus on Bilbao’s (and the Guggenheim’s) wealth in ruins and establish the conceptual links between ruins and allegories. We will be asking ourselves: in which sense are ruins “necessary”?

Week Six
Urban Renewal as Project, Gentrification, and Ideology

Carl Schorske, “The Idea of the City in European Thought.” In Sylvia Fleiss (ed.), Urbanism in World Perspective: A Reader, Thomas Y. Cromwell Co., New York, 1968.

Franco Bianchini, “Remaking European Cities: The Role of Cultural Policies.” In Cultural Policy and Urban Regeneration: The West European Experience, Bianchini and Parkinson, eds., Manchester Univ. Press, Manchester, 1993.

Arantxa Rodriguez, “Planning the Revitalization of an Old Industrial City: Urban Policy Innovations in Metropolitan Bilbao.” In Christophe Demazière and Patricia Wilson, eds., Local Economic Development in Europe and the Americas, Mansell, London, 1996.

“La batalla del Euskalduna”

Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City.

We will examine the context and meaning of the new discourse of urban renewal, review the implications of cultural policies for economic regeneration, dwell on the interrelationship between urban renewal and image creation, insist on the links between the politics of building and the politics of national identity, discuss the dilemmas implicit to urban policy development, and distinguish between the practical and ideological dimensions of the discourse.

Week Seven
“Learning from Las Vegas”

Robert Venturi, Denise S. Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1977, pp. 1-72.

Pearson, “Theme Sprawl,” Architectural Record, November 2000.

Charles Freund, “Muerte a Las Vegas.”

Fredrik Jameson, “Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” New Left Review, July-August 1984.



Copyright © 2000 the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno. All rights reserved. Updated 28 January 2002. E-mail: