Monday, July 19, 2010

Frank Gehry’s Moment

It’s been my experience that transformational ideas are almost always met with hostility and opposition. Advocating a world-changing idea and making it into a reality is often a tiring process that involves constant self-doubt, rejection and failure.

If you’re a revolutionary in need of inspiration, take a look at this month’s Vanity Fair, which features a piece on one of my favorite radical expressionists, architect Frank Gehry.

Gehry’s ideas steer clear of conventional architectural thinking in just about every way imaginable. From the beginning of his career, he was considered an outsider by artists and architects alike. As he says in the article, “I was different from the architects, who called me an artist, which was their way of marginalizing me. And then the artists got competitive and said, No, you’re still an architect, because you’re putting toilets in your buildings, in your art. Richard Serra dismissed me as a plumber.”

The Guggenheim Bilbao stands as a monument to unconventional thinking. In Vanity Fair’s poll of 52 prominent architects and critics, including 11 Pritzker Prize winners, 28 named the Guggenheim Bilbao as one of the most important buildings of the last 30 years. In fact, the building has inspired a surge in experimental architecture dubbed “the Bilbao effect.”

The Guggenheim Bilbao is a truly breathtaking example of how Mystery, Intimacy, and Sensuality can be harnessed to create a stirring emotional experience. It consists of odd, stacked geometric shapes, windows slanted in unpredictable directions, and the most mesmerizing curves. It’s a truly original creation that would not have existed had Gehry hewed to stale traditions and abandoned his own radical vision.

Here’s to transformational thinking, and the power of creativity to change the world for the better.

As an aside, who did Gehry vote for? His ballot includes none of his own work:
Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, Beijing (Herzog & de Meuron)
CCTV Building, Beijing (Rem Koolhaas/O.M.A.)
Church of Santa Maria, Marco de Canavezes, Portugal (Alvaro Siza Vieira)
Cartier Foundation, Paris (Jean Nouvel)
MAXXI Museum, Rome (Zaha Hadid)

This 2007 portrait of Frank Gehry is by Trent Nelson, Chief Photographer at The Salt Lake Tribune (check out his arresting images on his website).

Meanwhile, across the bottom of Manhattan from where I live and work, Gehry's 76 story tower for Forest City Ratner on Beekman Street has been topped off. This is Gehry’s first skyscraper. NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has called the building “Hypnotic", "Landmark", "Intoxicating.” “Mr. Gehry has designed a landmark that will hold its own against the greatest skyscrapers of New York. It may even surpass them.”

Go Frank!


Xavier Jimenez said...

I thought it was telling when MATT TYRNAUER, the author of the Vanity article said in his Charlie Rose interview, of the Bilbao, that "it couldn’t have been built without the computer. I mean architects will bend over backwards saying the computer makes no difference. It’s the art. We could do it without the computer. But frankly you couldn’t build these things without the computer. They wouldn’t exist." What does this mean for the future of all human connection if 1. as you said this "truly breathtaking example of how Mystery, Intimacy, and Sensuality can be harnessed to create a stirring emotional experience." was powered by a computer. and 2. as we have seen over the past 10 years computers empower the masses to be creative? will truly creative and inspirational and transformational ideas eventually be produced at a regular cadence of predictable frequency so as to eliminate the need for design by the human creative process of ideation?

Rav Roberts said...

Thanks Kevin.
“Hypnotic", "Landmark", and "Intoxicating” could equally be applied to 30 St Mary Axe, also known as the Gherkin in my opinion. I look at it each day from my office in wonder, and think about its perfect and imposing form (yes, I may have a problem!). Note though that there is nothing like it in the world, which is what makes it so special.
Rav Roberts