Eduardo Gimenez-Cassina Bergareche

Eduardo Gimenez-Cassina Bergareche


The Destination Economy

In 1997 the world witnessed an urban miracle: the previously industrial and gritty city of Bilbao, re-emerged from its ashes transformed as a destination of international prestige for cultural tourism. At the centre of this Pygmalionesque transformation was the new branch of the Guggenheim Foundation, an architectural experiment signed by Frank Gehry. The project not only challenged preconceived notions of what a museum should be, but also transformed the city’s financial model into a Destination Economy.

What role can the museum play in order to improve the lives of those around it? Are museums maximizing their potential as role models for the community? Can the brand of a museum percolate and be adopted by its community or vice versa? Can the Bilbao miracle be replicated?

This thesis explores the role of the museum within the framework of a Destination Economy, and analyses its potential not only in terms of urban or economic development in the community, but also in terms of its social impact, sketching a strategy that can take the catalyst model further. Integrating the local brand and social accountability into the museum is crucial for its sustainable development.

Looking at one of the world’s fastest changing locations, the People’ s Republic of China, the thesis analyses two case studies, Destination Economies that use heritage as their main resource: QianMen street in Beijing and the village of Cuandixia. These two projects contextualize the exposed theory and explore different ways in which the lives of the residents could be improved within the proposed theoretical framework.

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