Local Creative Sector
While emerging from the deep industrial crisis of the 1980s reinventing itself as a city of knowledge and advanced services, Bilbao worked to create the conditions to favor innovation and creativity with the main objective of reactivating the economy, generating employment and improving the wellness of citizens, through the attraction of business activity in dynamic sectors. The focus on the Creative Sector is highly connected with the change in Bilbao’s urban and economic development model. Throughout this period, we can highlight works such as the Guggenheim Museum by Frank O. Gehry or the design of the Bilbao subway by Norman Foster.
Both architects have been awarded with the prestigious Pritzker Prize, as have other architects such as Rafael Moneo, Zaha Hadid, and Álvaro Siza, who collaborated on other projects in the city. Bilbao also became an international benchmark for the conservation and promotion of heritage sites, from its earliest history (exemplified by the Old Town district), through classical architecture (mainly in the Ensanche district) to its most contemporary elements.
Nonetheless, the key factors underlying the success of Bilbao’s transformation are more than the so-called “Guggenheim Effect». It is not about achieving urban transformation and economic and social vibrancy through a few iconic buildings. Rather, it has been a continuous and holistic process in which the creative ecosystem played a key role.
In 2014, the city of Bilbao took a step forward and focused on a new framework to define the city’s economic strategy that was named Innovation and intelligent specialization strategy for Bilbao. The future model of the city must be based on a “smart growth” that can strengthen the development of the city through knowledge, innovation and creativity in five key economic sectors. One of these is the Cultural and Creative Activities.
UNESCO city of design
In the same year, Bilbao became a member of the UNESCO City of Design network. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 246 cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level. The Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music.
The Creative Cities Network is a privileged partner of UNESCO, not only as a platform for reflection on the role of creativity as a lever for sustainable development but also as a breeding ground of action and innovation, notably for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Bilbao Bizkaia Design Week
Bilbao Bizkaia Design Week is an initiative of the Bilbao City Council (Bilbao Ekintza) and the Provincial Council of Bizkaia (Beaz) to promote the Creative Industries as a factor of economic development and international projection of the territory. It has become an annual event not to be missed since Bilbao joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2014.
This initiative is aimed at bringing the work of the creative sectors closer to other economic sectors and to society, promoting activities of a transversal nature, attracting ever-wider audiences, encouraging networking and the exchange of knowledge, showcasing Bilbao as a UNESCO City of Design and achieving an increasing impact on Bizkaia’s economic and social fabric. Multiple activities are organized, such as conferences, workshops and exhibitions that take place in different spaces of the city and are programmed by the main agents that make up the design ecosystem.
Stakeholder and events
Part of Bilbao’s economy is based on creative sectors such as design, art, culture and technology. There are diverse institutions dedicated to art and design in the city. Bilbao also has a wide range of museums, galleries and cultural centers providing venues, platforms and outlets.
Design is brought to all its levels, from industrial design – furniture and product design, machine tool industry, fashion design, advertising and marketing – to digital design – video art, graphic design, video game design, computer-aided design and television production. By the way, entities related to contemporary creation and applied creativity stand out in Bilbao. On the other hand, the Basque Country has a long and proud history of culinary arts. The city and its surroundings have many distinguished restaurants (eleven of those are awarded Michelin Stars), bars, bodegas, top local and international chefs and cooking schools in which food design plays a key role.
Knowledge and research
The Basque Country has a science, technology and innovation network made up of 3 Universities, 1 School of Design, 4 Technology Parks and 25 highly prestigious research centres. The capital of Bizkaia is also member of the Innpulso Network and has cutting-edge science and technology infrastructures. Moreover, Bilbao is the headquarters of the European Agency for Safety and Health.