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.
Roger Wehrli, born 1965, lives and works as a freelance photographer in Switzerland. His reportages, documentaries, and portraits are regularly published in Swiss newspapers and magazines.
Ibon Zubiaur, born 1971 in Gexto near Bilbao, Spain, lives and works as a writer and translator in Berlin.
Photographs by Roger Wehrli
exts by Roger Wehrli and Ibon Zubiaur
Text English and German
Hardback 160 pages, 95 duotone illustrations 17 x 24 cm
Order the book: scheidegger-spiess.ch