Roger Wehrli. Bilbao

Roger Wehrli. Bilbao

Photographs since 1988

Bilbao’s transformation from Spain's most polluted industrial city to Europe's Capital of Culture and creative hotspot



Title Information

Photographs by Roger Wehrli. Texts by Roger Wehrli and Ibon Zubiaur

1st edition

, 2017

Text English and German


160 pages, 95 duotone illustrations

17 x 24 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-535-4


In the 1980s, Bilbao was Spain’s most polluted city, due to the mining and iron industries that had served as its main sources of employment, by then in terminal decline. In 1993, seven years after Spain joined the European Union, a radical transformation was initiated, and celebrated architects such as Santiago Calatrava, Norman Foster, and Frank O. Gehry were brought on board to design buildings that would serve as icons of the reinvented Bilbao.

Swiss photographer Roger Wehrli documented this transformation, which was so successful that Bilbao has since become a model for former industrial centers throughout Europe. Taken between 1988 and 2014, Wehrli’s striking black-and-white images tell the compelling tale of the decline and rebirth of a city. Perhaps the most emblematic monument of Bilbao’s transformation is Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, the city’s main attraction and one of Europe’s most visited museums. Importantly, in emerging from crisis to become the flourishing cultural center it is today, Bilbao has intentionally retained features of its industrial past, which adds to its singular character.

Authors & Editors

Roger Wehrli

, born 1965, lives and works as a freelance photographer in Switzerland. His reportages, documentaries, and portraits are regularly published in Swiss newspapers and magazines.

Ibon Zubiaur

, born 1971 in Gexto near Bilbao, Spain, lives and works as a writer and translator in Berlin.