31 March 2016

Bilbao - Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, part of the wider Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation's clutch of museums, was designed by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. Funded by the Basque government, and built beside the River Nervión by Ferrovial of Madrid, it opened in October 1997, on time and on budget.

The interior boasts about 120,000 square feet of exhibition space, in 19 galleries ranged around an impressive central atrium. Ten of these are orthogonal in shape, with an external finish of stone. Nine are of irregular form, with an external cladding of titanium panels.

30 March 2016

Bilbao - Ascensor de Begoña

In the heart of Bilbao's Casco Viejo, the Old Town, is a monumental and incongruous concrete structure that looks like it might be more at home overlooking a Soviet gulag.

It is in fact the Ascensor de Begoña, a set of elevators that takes one up to Park Etxebarri and the 16th-century basilica. The fare is €0.45 per trip, paid to the unfortunate elevator jockey who spends all day stuck in a lift.

28 March 2016

Bilbao - Transporter Bridge

Puente Vizcaya, just outside Bilbao, and connecting Portugalete and Las Arenas, is the oldest transporter bridge in the world, the first of just 16 built to completion worldwide, and the only one built in Spain.

The bridge was designed by Spaniard Alberto de Palacio and Frenchman Ferdinand Arnodin. Construction commenced on 10 April 1890, and the bridge officially opened on 28 July 1893. The influence of the Eiffel Tower of 1889 is obvious.

Built of iron, it is 524 feet long, with towers 200 feet high and of 100 tons each, braced by cables that run parallel to the River Nervión. The original boom, gondola and traction gear weighed in at a further 400 tons. The bridge is joined together by 21,401 bolts and 10,629 rivets. The tower on the Las Arenas side boasted a sight-seeing lift.

The truss was dynamited on 17 June 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, but service recommenced in June 1941, with a lighter boom and larger but lighter gondola. The bridge received in November 1998 its fifth gondola. This hangs from a 36-wheel trolley, is 82 feet long, and can carry six cars and several dozen people at a time (bottom).

Still very much in use, operating every eight minutes during the day, every hour during the night, the journey taking just 90 seconds, the bridge is integrated into the ticketing for Bilbao's wider public transport system. Until 1999, except for a period 1941-45 when controlled from the gondola, it was operated from a booth up on the boom (above).

The 1998 overhaul included construction of ground-level waiting rooms and an enclosed walkway, with lifts at both ends, that enables one to walk across the river at about 147 feet above high water level (above). Known locally as the Puente Colgante, the Hanging Bridge, this world first was declared by UNESCO in July 2006 a World Heritage Site.

14 March 2016

Echo of an Ekco

The cabinet of Ekco's AC-only AC77, designed by Serge Chermayeff, was available in both walnut Bakelite, and black Bakelite with a front panel and controls in ivory urea formaldehyde. Also available were AC/DC (AD77), battery (B67) and accumulator/vibrator (BV67) versions.

This working example of the black and ivory AC77 is doubly rare, in that it was manufactured, in 1936, at Ekco's short-lived Belgian factory, in Haren, near Brussels. Accordingly, the set uses French side-contact valves.

The Belgian operation was started in 1935 to counter the effect of continental import duties, levied by weight, but closed in 1937 for economic reasons. A sales and service function remained at Haren until the start of WWII. The back is branded differently from Southend-on-Sea-built Ekcos.

04 March 2016

Karan Anne Porter

Thursday 4 March 1965 to Wednesday 4 February 2009.
Photograph: with Sarah Willcox, Fulham, 1991.