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Beyond Bilbao: Star architecture projects and the geographies of innovations across the construction supply chain

Authors: Johannes Dreher*, HCU Hamburg, Joachim Thiel, HCU Hamburg
Topics: Regional Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Economic Geography
Keywords: Bilbao effect, star architecture, iconic architecture, innovation, construction industry, Elbphilharmonie, European Central Bank
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Many studies on the “Bilbao effect” reveal a rich body of socio-economic effects, that star architecture projects have on their respective city by investigating ex-post effects of completed projects. Hardly discussed are (a) effects outside the related cities and (b) effects of the development process of such projects, especially effects of the material construction. This paper seeks to shed light on these blind spots, by investigating organisational as well as technical and aesthetic innovations that are driven by the planning and implementation process of star architecture projects within the wider construction industry. The research particularly looks into where the different steps in these innovation processes are located. Based on an in-depth analysis of two German star architectural projects, namely the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, we find different spatial patterns between organizational and technical or aesthetic innovations. Organizational innovations were developed in the cities, were the projects are located and the lessons learned diffused through the respective local urban networks. Unlike technical or aesthetic innovations were developed at different non-urban places even far away from the project and accordingly the lessons learned were captured there. By extending the focus of analysis beyond the local and beyond the sole ex-post output our research provides new insights into how star architecture investments take effect: they trigger various innovations and these effects are not necessarily limited to the city-scale, as many studies might suggest, but spatially widespread.

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