The Guggenheim Museum is a must-see for anyone who visits New York City. The museum opened its doors to the public in 1959 and exhibits a distinguished art collection that belonged to Henry F. Guggenheim, a billionaire owner of numerous steel and copper smelting businesses. The building has a very unique design that beautifully spirals down from top to bottom. Its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright tried to create “a temple of spirit” to house the Guggenheim collection.
The exterior of the museum has very distinct features and so do the museum exhibitions that represent the world’s best artworks, paintings and sculptures from both the classic and modern eras. The Guggenheim has branches in Berlin, Abu Dhabi and Venice and attracts millions of art lovers.
In 1991, the local government in Basque, a Spanish province, made a proposal to the Guggenheim Museum. They proposed that the museum to open a branch in an old Bilbao area that was once a seaport. In exchange, the Basque government would fully cover the construction cost of the museum and pay a one-time fee of 20 million USD to the Guggenheim, as well as make an annual contribution of 12 million USD to the new museum’s budget. The deal also required the Guggenheim Museum to manage the new branch and bring in exhibitions from its other branch museums.
Frank Gehry, a renowned architect, developed the design of this new museum. The exterior of the building involved huge curved boards that looked like they were made of glass and titanium. The museum opened in 1997 and quickly made Bilbao one of the most visited cities in Europe. This branch of the Guggenheim produced a great amount of revenue that managed to generate an income greater than its initial cost in the first year of operation. The museum began drawing an annual income that was twice as much as its initial cost. More modern and exclusive structural art pieces, such as a puppy made of flowers that was as tall as a five story building or a spider-shaped installation as tall as a ten story building, were erected around the museum, attracting thousands more tourists. The newly opened hotels and malls that served visitors to the area, contributed greatly to the economy of Bilbao and swiftly increased the prices of real estate in the city.
This shows that a building or two built at the right time, in the right place and with the right features, can turn any place into a giant arts and cultural magnet that can attract millions of tourists from around the world. It is called the “Bilbao effect” or the “Guggenheim effect”.

A city that has lost its identity

Just like people, cities have their own unique identity and different features.
Although tall buildings are being erected almost every day in Ulaanbaatar, our capital city is losing its grip on its identity. We are starting to see that there is not enough space for people, let alone cars, to pass each other in the narrow gaps between buildings built too close to one another. The traffic in downtown Ulaanbaatar, the city with the most polluted air in the world, moves at a snail’s pace.
There are increasingly fewer buildings with cultural and historical significance. And we are seeing more structures that have exteriors made of blue or black glass that make the buildings look no different from each other.
It has been many years since the mayors of our city successively “waged war” against the heritage buildings and structures in Ulaanbaatar. Their signatures demolished those precious buildings, only to build new structures with no cultural or historical features. If the price is right, you can do anything with the land in our city. It may be the only city in the world where one can rent some land only for a few years and be allowed to do anything with it, such as constructing any building with any desired design in any location. A general plan for our city sounds more like a joke than a plan, and there is no harmonious alignment – in terms of aesthetics – to the buildings found in the city center.
A very unique building that used to house a library for children was demolished and is now being replaced by a bank and a tall office building. A much larger, square tower is also going up down the hill from the residential winter palace of the President. It has been about 20 years since the ruins of the Khangai Hotel, located next to the State Circus, has been touched. The printing factory to the east of the house of parliament turned is the city’s own Chateau de Brest. Almost every building that has been completed or is under construction in Ulaanbaatar, has become not only historical proof of corruption, but also a monument to bad governance. If the next generation writes on the walls of every building, what bribe was paid to whom in order to get the building erected? Every structure in our city could serve as a spectacular exhibit of corruption.
Three to four story buildings in the suburbs are erected by bribing officials, and then given fancy names such as “plaza” or “palace”. Despite the lack of landscape improvements or parking lots, huge signs are installed to earn advertising and promotional income.
From these signs, you can also see that every corrupt building is connected to some politician. This is the primary reason why the mayor of Ulaanbaatar is not directly elected by the people, but appointed by the ruling political party. Our precious city has become an arena where politicians play their games.

The Ulaanbaatar effect

The time has come for us to immediately start taking action to make Ulaanbaatar a capital city that has its own unique identity, still maintaining our history and tradition, but capturing modern design and technology and ensuring that human activities are friendly to the surrounding environment. Ulaanbaatar needs to become a city that favors each and every one of its residents regardless of what their political party affiliations might be.
The current attempts to achieve the Guggenheim effect can include the Chinggis Khaan Statue at Tsonjin Boldog, the Buddha Statue at Zaisan and the Maidar Statue currently being built to the south of the Bogd Mountain. However, due to the lack of other services for visitors, such as public parks or overnight accommodations, these places are not operating in the most economically efficient way.
A dinosaur museum with compelling panoramic images is one example of a possible trigger for the Guggenheim effect, and is worthy of its recent attention. This museum could be built in the Gobi, south of Ulaanbaatar, and dozens of dinosaur skeletons could be exhibited inside the building while their models could be presented outdoors. Some of the models can be designed to move or make sounds. We could establish a dinosaur research center and a museum where children from many countries around the world come to see the exhibits.
We need good initiative and draft laws to maintain and restore buildings with historical and cultural significance in the city, and establish parking lots and restaurants around them. First of all, the buildings of the Summer Palace of Bogd Khan and the Choijin Lama Monastery need to be restored without making changes to the exterior groundwork design.
Secondly, many new unique sculptures, statues and monuments need to be built in Ulaanbaatar so that visitors have someplace to go sightseeing before heading out to the previously mentioned heritage buildings that are located outside of the city. It is worth remembering that the main attractions in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, were designed by the world famous architects Kisho Kurokawa (Japan) and Norman Foster (Great Britain).
Santiago Calatrava, a renowned Spanich architect, told the BBC in a recent interview, that “Every city must project its imagination.”
It is time to truly show our love for the capital city and bring forth the Ulaanbaatar effect.

Translated by B.AMAR

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=4534

Posted by on Jun 30 2013. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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