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Must-See Architecture

Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker, tells Sunday Morning that sometimes it's not the art on museum walls that deserves our attention, sometimes it's the walls themselves.

This fall, it will be 10 years since the Spanish city of Bilbao became a household name -- all thanks to one building: the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

It was one of those events that occurs rarely in the arts, and probably least of all in architecture: the completion of a work that truly changes the world.

Following the lead of Frank Lloyd Wright and his New York Guggenheim a generation earlier, Gehry's powerful, highly expressionistic titanium building revitalized the old, industrial city beyond anyone's expectations.

The critics loved it and the public loved it, too, and they came in droves.

Since then, cities all over the world have been chasing after the so-called "Bilbao effect."

In Kansas City, there's Steven Holl's new Nelson-Atkins Museum, which looks almost like a series of light sculptures, but which shows off a whole range of art beautifully.

Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum is rapidly becoming a symbol of its city.

The list goes on: Tadao Ando's Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, Santiago Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron's new deYoung Museum in San Francisco, and Renzo Piano's brilliant re-do of the Morgan Library in New York.

While Bilbao has inspired great works like these, it's also encouraged some architects to create designs that do no more than scream for attention. Problem is, not every building can or should be a prima donna. A city is like a chorus, and it doesn't work if every building tries to be a soloist.

But if the legacy of Bilbao has sometimes been too much architecture, and perhaps too much faith in the ability of a single building to turn around a city, Gehry's great building and its descendants stand as a testament to the belief that in a museum, the architecture isn't just there to keep the rain off the paintings.

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