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.”