MAS Context Fall Talks 2017

Celebrating 20 years of the Guggenheim Bilbao

November 1, 2017

On Wednesday, November 1, MAS Context and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This event was a unique opportunity to learn first hand about the making of one of the most important buildings of the end of the twentieth century.


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3D drawings for the Guggenheim Museum. © SOM.

Designed by Frank O. Gehry & Associates, the Guggenheim Museum was a feat of design and construction. The use of digital modeling, including the now famous CATIA, and other innovations opened the door to a new generation of architecture that defined in the beginnings of the twenty-first century. The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) served as the structural engineer for the building with Bilbao-based IDOM as the local engineer. It was a unique collaboration that proved to be a major success.

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of its opening, John Zils, Associate Partner Emeritus at SOM, discussed the work of SOM in the project while Bill Baker, Structural and Civil Engineering Partner at SOM, discussed the Guggenheim Museum in relationship to the engineering work that has been developed in the office in the last two decades.

Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context, kicked off the event by providing an overview of the transformation of the city of Bilbao, from the challenges it was facing to the situation twenty years after the opening of the museum.

The transformation of Bilbao was documented in the issue 30-31 of MAS Context. Among the contributions, the issue features an interview with John Zils. You can read the issue here.

The exhibition SOM: Engineering x [Art + Architecture], currently on display in Chicago and presented with Mana Contemporary Chicago in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, reveals the concepts and forms that stem from SOM’s integrated practice of engineering, art, and architecture. For more information, please visit:

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SOM: Engineering x [Art + Architecture] exhibition, Chicago, 2017. © Courtesy of SOM.