Winner revealed in Bilbao Fine Arts Museum contest

7 August 2019
Credit: Foster + Partners
  • Foster + Partners



Foster + Partners design new grand gallery for city institution

The winning proposal for the expansion and remodelling of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum has been revealed by the president of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia and the Museum Foundation Board. Chosen from a shortlist of six, the entry by Foster + Partners and LM Uriarte Arkitektura S.L.P was unanimously praised by the jury for “recovering the historical values of the museum and projecting it towards the future with a new grand gallery that rises over the constructions of 1945, 1970 and 2001 to write a new chapter in the life of the institution.”

A guiding principle behind the design is to make the 1945 building the central focus by restoring its original entrance and internal sequence of spaces. A new structure rests across the 1945 and 1970 buildings towards the rear, providing an extra 2,000 sq m of galleries on a single open, flexible floor. Norman Foster, founder and executive chairman of Foster + Partners, said: “Our design will restore the existing mid-twentieth century building and setting to its original glory, create a new publicly accessible atrium space and add major new galleries for contemporary art in a floating pavilion.”

The design seeks to establish a sympathetic relationship to the city of which it is an important part. The façade of the existing building will be restored to make it more permeable, while enhancing the institution’s unique identity. The revitalization turns Plaza Arriaga into the new heart of the space along the museum’s spine, with light streaming in from the gallery spaces above. The ground floor is situated on a single accessible plane, allowing visitors to find their way around easily. The addition is characterised by a modelled façade featuring viewing terraces, with minimal supports placed away from the footprint of the existing buildings.
The jury’s statement added, “Technological in its image, humanistic in its approach and ecological in its sustainability, the proposal combines architectural quality, urban sensitivity and social responsibility to raise a luminous landmark in the historic heart of Bilbao.”

Lucy Nordberg
TenderStream Head of Research

This competition was first published by TenderStream on 14.02.2019 here

Start your free trial here or email our team directly at

Subscribe Now