Roger Wehrli. Bilbao_

©Scheidegger Spiess

Bilbao’s transformation from Spain’s most polluted industrial city to Europe’s Capital of Culture and creative hotspot

Roger Wehrli. Bilbao, Photographs since 1988

Texts by Roger Wehrli and Ibon Zubiaur

In the 1980s, Bilbao, metropolis of the Basque Country in Spain, was considered the country’s most polluted city and its mining and iron industries were in decline. In 1993, seven years after Spain had joined the European Union, a radical transformation was initiated, moving away from manufacturing to service industries and, a key element of the process, to contemporary culture. Celebrated architects such as Santiago Calatrava, Norman Foster, and Frank O. Gehry were commissioned with the design of public buildings meant to become icons of the reinvented Bilbao. And it worked: Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum has indeed become the modern city’s chief attraction and one of Europe’s most-visited museums. Bilbao has made the most of the chances its deep crisis offered and today is a flourishing cultural center in Spain. Yet the industrial past is apparent and adds strongly to the particular charm of the place.

Swiss photographer Roger Wehrli has documented Bilbao’s transformation between 1988 and 2014. His black-and-white images tell the compelling story of decline and reinvention of a city that has also become a model for other former factory towns in Europe.

ISBN 978-3-85881-535-4


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