The “Bilbao Effect” – Closer Look Behind Transition and Change in an Urban Image and Reality: The Conceptual Base Behind the Turnaround of the Basque Economy and Society

  • Abstract:

    The so-called “Miracle of Bilbao” reflects the surprisingly rapid and bold “turnaround” of an economy ailing from profound crisis, and saving threatening social situations from exploding.
    The turnaround is the result of far reaching policies of the then recently more autonomous regional administration and their being turned into a “concerted action” orchestrating all measures of economic promotion afforded the region as a so-called ZUR (zone of urgent restructuring) by the European Union, then “European Community”.

    By topping financial subsidies and promotion of technologies with the creation of a Centre, initially conceived as “Design Centre”, but virtually turned into a centre of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, supporting and increasingly concerting the activities of economic promotion and focusing these prevailingly upon entrepreneur-run companies and their service providers, it was achieved that economic activities so far reduced to “me-too”-offers were decisively “re-invented” and steered to incomparable offers, the uniqueness of which was aimed at the diversity of preferences, and underlined by means of non-verbal communication (Gestalt, Design) of appearance and customer/user-experience leading to identification: Brand Techniques. In the process, it has been made clear to public administrators, that their measures, namely building and infrastructures, too, needed to reflect the concepts proactively presented to the private sector. Buildings, too, should, with similar pride, refer to the future, rather than the past, becoming architectural landmarks of the change in progress, thanks to the reactivated industry.
    As an example, for the term “architectural landmarks”, the undersigned spontaneously referred toF. L. Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York. Hint which had unexpected effects, in that politicians and public administrators eventually interacted with the Guggenheim foundation.
    The paper and its presentation shall underline the economic theory aspects together with an outline of the concepts co-ordinated as a holistic approach to sustainable economic development – plus the narration of “how it all happened” and how easy the same approach can be applied – and improved everywhere by tailoring it to local culture and pride as resource of distinction.