1997 – Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Innovation: 3D Structural Modeling
Location: Bilbao, Spain
Architect: Frank Gehry
Structural Engineer: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Completed in 1997, Gehry’s design is considered one of the most iconic structures in the world. Gehry is known for his use of complex geometry and unorthodox materials. In order to construct the building while preserving its aesthetic integrity, Gehry worked in conjunction with structural engineers at Skidmore Owings and Merrill, who used advanced 3D structural modeling software to carry out analyses. In the 1970’s and 80’s, SOM developed an innovative software called AES, which was a significant forerunner to Building Information Modeling (BIM). In addition to AES, Gehry and SOM used CATIA, a software originally intended for structural analysis of aerospace and shipbuilding designs. SOM modified CATIA so it could be used to translate Gehry’s complex curvilinear forms from design into construction. The use of these revolutionary programs marked the beginning of integrating 3D modeling software into the design process, which allowed for extremely complicated structures such as Gehry’s Guggenheim to be constructed.