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Is there a Bilbao Effect? Testing the local area impact of iconic architectural developments.

Authors: Matt Patterson*, University of Calgary
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: iconic architecture, arts and culture, urban development, culture-led urban regeneration
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The term “Bilbao effect” describes the potential of iconic architectural developments (IADs) designed by world famous architects to act as a catalyst for economic and cultural revitalization within neighbourhoods or regions. Despite the ubiquity of this term, the validity of this effect is still a matter of debate. Furthermore, research on the topic has relied almost exclusively on individual or small-n comparative case studies. This paper builds on this research by testing the Bilbao effect through a quantitative analysis of 142 IADs completed in Canada and the United States between 2000 and 2009. Using “fixed effects” modelling, a method that controls for selection biases, the analysis examines the affect of IADs on a set of outcome variables that measure neighbourhood-level economic and cultural changes between 2000 and 2010. In particular, the paper focuses on change in rent and change in the number of arts establishments located within the neighbourhood. The analysis demonstrates that neighbourhoods with IADs experienced significantly more economic and cultural growth than other neighbourhoods during this time period. However, the paper also complicates this finding by examining how the “Bilbao effect” differs depending on the type of IAD (e.g. public versus commercial buildings) and the characteristics of the cities in which they are built (e.g. large, global cities versus smaller, regional cities).

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