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Norman Foster presents the project for the remodel of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Sponsor: BBK


This morning, in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Norman Foster presented a preview of the draft project for its expansion. In his comments, Foster used one of the art gallery's most iconic works—The Bridge at Burceña by Aurelio Arteta—as a metaphor for an understanding of the past being one of the fundamental bridges for building the future.

The event was attended by Unai Rementeria, the General Deputy for Bizkaia and Chairman of the Museum Board; Bingen Zupiria, the Regional Secretary for Culture and Linguistic Policy of the Basque Government; Juan Mari Aburto, Mayor of the City Council of Bilbao; as well as other representatives from the Board, from the jury of the bid for the expansion architecture and from the museum Corporate Programme, to name but a few.

The road map of this important architectural initiative was determined on 11 December 2018 in the Strategic Plan 2019–2022, approved by the Board with the aim of driving the organisational modernisation and the physical expansion of the institution. Within this new strategic vision, the action with the greatest impact is the expansion of some 8,000 m2 of the museum's operating space, with a budget of €18,658,200 and a completion time of 45 months.

The first step towards achieving this goal was the call for bids for the architecture on 11 February, held thanks to funding by BBK, the honorary patron of the museum. On April 8, the jury selected six finalists out of the 57 teams admitted in the first stage. Finally, on July 23, the bid decision was announced in favour of the project titled 'Agravitas', presented by Foster+Partners + LM Uriarte Arkitektura, and both the winning project and the finalists were on display for the public between July 29 and October 6.

The core idea is to recover the prominence of the 1945 building by restoring its original entrance. A uniquely-sized space is projected on the existing installations that stands respectfully on the 1945 and 1970 buildings, providing the museum with new galleries on one single open-plan, multi-purpose floor. The initiative also transforms the Square containing the monument to Arriaga into the new heart of the museum's hub.

[In its report, the jury summed up the strengths of the project as follows: 'Technological in its image, humanistic in its approach and ecological in its sustainability, the proposal combines architectural quality, urban sensitivity and social responsibility to build a dazzling, subtle milestone in the historic heart of Bilbao'.

As for Unai Rementeria, he highlighted the most significant improvements in the functionality and visibility of the museum on condensing into one single volume the requirement plan, as well as the consideration it shows to visitors and the enormous environmental awareness of a project at the service of citizens.

Sponsor: BBK

The project with the pseudonym "Agravitas" submitted by UTE Foster + Partners Ltd. + LM Uriarte Arkitektura S.L.P., was chosen to be the winning proposal to enlarge and remodel the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

The jury has unanimously deemed that the winning project is the one that best meets the priority objectives, namely to provide the museum with more room to extend the display of its collections and to promote its exhibition, education and dissemination programmes.

The winning project will also resolve the museum’s orientation to the city by once again making the façade of the old building, which today faces Plaza Euskadi, permeable. Furthermore, the new architecture will bring unique value to the institution’s identity.

The maximum budget estimated by the museum for the execution of the future museum enlargement and remodelling contract is €18,658,200.00 (VAT included).


Norman Foster, Luis María Uriarte

The guiding idea behind this project is to gain back the protagonism of the 1945 building by restoring its original entrance. Over the existing installations, a uniquely-sized space is designed to respectfully rest over the 1945 and 1970 buildings, equipping the museum with 2,000 m2 of new galleries on a single open, flexible floor, an optimal gallery for any art curator.

The new remodelling turns Plaza Arriaga into the new heart of the museum’s backbone, with light streaming in from the rooflight running across the new gallery, and all the levels on the ground floor will be unified to give the museum an accessible plane where it is easy to orient oneself.

The proposed remodelling is characterised by a new striated piece to enhance its slenderness, with a minimum number of supports placed far from the footprint of the existing buildings.

UTE Foster + Partners Ltd. + LM Uriarte Arkitektura S.L.P.

Norman Foster is the founder and executive chairman of Foster + Partners, a global studio for architecture, urbanism and design, rooted in sustainability. His projects include the Reichstag in Berlin, the Great Court of the British Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, airports in Hong Kong and Beijing and headquarters buildings for Hearst (New York), Apple (Cupertino), Bloomberg (London), Comcast (Philadelphia) and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (Hong Kong). Current research projects, in association with The European Space Agency and NASA, are exploring solutions for the creation of habitations on the Moon and Mars.

He is president of the Norman Foster Foundation, based in Madrid with a global reach, promoting interdisciplinary thinking and research to help new generations of architects, designers and urbanists anticipate the future. He became the 21st Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate in 1999.

In 1997, he was appointed to the Order of Merit and in 1999 was granted a Life Peerage in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, taking the title of Lord Foster of Thames Bank. His passions include cross-country skiing, cycling and aviation.

Luis María Uriarte Architect/project leader. An acclaimed Basque architect with 30 years of experience. His work has been exhibited in Chicago, Shanghai and Sao Paulo and published in numerous architecture magazines (El Croquis, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, etc.).

He combines his professional practice with teaching at Universidad de Navarra and Academie van Bouwkunst in Amsterdam. Key projects include the following:

  • Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoaren eraberritze- eta handitze-lanak 2002
  • Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoaren barneko argi-zuloak, zolaketak eta akaberak 2018
  • Getxo Antzokia-Musika Eskola arte eszenikoen zentroa 2018 – Getxo (Bizkaia)
  • Gandasegi hezkuntza publikoko zentroa eraberritzea eta handitzea 2018 – Getxo (Bizkaia)
  • Antenna Ekoizpen Kulturaleko Zentroa 2014 – Galdako (Bizkaia)
  • San Pedroko arkupea eraberritzea 1995 – Laudio (Bizkaia)


The proposals by the six teams which are on display in the exhibition are: