Architecture in the Age of Gehry

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Roderick Grant
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Architecture in the Age of Gehry

Post by Roderick Grant »

Has anyone seen the Vanity Fair article on the "Five Greatest Buildings Since 1980"? Guggenheim Bilbao was judged the greatest by the 52 "experts" surveyed. ("An expert is a man who has stopped thinking - he knows!" FLW) At 28 votes, it far surpassed No. 2, Renzo Piano's Menil Collection with10 votes. That's Piano's best in the past 30 years? I think not. Peter Zumthor's Thermal Baths in Vals, Switzerland, came in third with 9 votes; should have come in better than that. HSBC Building (7) is certainly not Norman Foster's best design, is it? Better even than his Millau Viaduct in France (4)? Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Central Library (6) is an example of what I call "Smartass Architecture," like his CCTV Bldg (3) in Beijing. Also with six votes, Toyo Ito's Mediatheque Bldg, Sendai; James Stirling's Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart; and Tadao Ando's stunning Church of the Light in Osaka. Of all 22 buildings mentioned, Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial is the only one I've seen personally, and a powerful work it is! Coming in at #22, with 2 votes, is Le ("Well, now that he's finished one building, he'll go write four books about it" FLW) Corbusier's St. Pierre's Church in Firminy, which should also ignite that old argument we've had periodically on this site about posthumous works.

Jeffery Small
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Post by Jeffery Small »

No Calatrava on the list, but we get Koolhaas and Gehry. Time to turn the page and move on.

Steve Lamb
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Post by Steve Lamb »

No Bart Prince? No Lautner? no Ken Kellog chapel? No Fay Jones? HUMBUG

DRN
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Post by DRN »

The fact that the "experts" left out Jones' quiet 1981 masterpiece Thorncrown, is a commentary on the value of "bling" in our society today...make a splash, be loud, be contorted, shovel in some LED's and zinc panels, and if green, cover it with slats of many different materials.....especially wood.

Palli Davis Holubar
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Post by Palli Davis Holubar »

RE: #1 - Does anyone remember the art inside?
Ditto to DNR's comment on the deplorable absence of Thorncrown Chapel.
# 22 Lin's memorial wall altered the history of honorary monuments as profoundly as Rodin's Burghers of Calais did in 1889.

To ignore these two goes deeper than "bling"; it puts the finger to the idea that Architecture can serve the humble, universal and authentic emotions of Life.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

It is all too easy to assess -- and accept or dismiss -- a building from exterior photographs, apparently. Is this fair judgement of architecture, which (as Wrightians, particularly ?) we believe to be a matter of sequential, spatial -- that is, interior -- experience -- to say nothing of functional performance (the primary imperative) ? Would a "smart-aleck" building begin to make sense, if we were to explore it and discover its secrets ?

With all the glass now in use, we can at least answer Wright's (smart-aleck) question "Is it hollow ?" from the outside, anyway. . .!

SDR

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Most public buildings are experienced from the exterior. That nasty looking church by Koolhaus accommodates a relatively small congregation that have the opportunity to experience its interior, but the exterior is seen by everyone who passes by, so its public value is defined by its exterior design. It's notable that no residences made the list; the house, the most difficult of buildings to design well, must be seen inside to be appreciated (or vilified), while the exterior is often seen by few other than immediate neighbors.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I'll accept that distinction. But anyone who misses the interior of Ronchamp (let us say) after the long pilgrimage to its site, or that of the chapel at MIT, or any cathedral you care to name, has not experienced the building -- I'm sure you would agree ? None of these buildings is closed to public scrutiny -- or use, for that matter.

Yes, in the context of our discussion it is the exterior of a large public structure that is the issue. It continues to baffle me that one is expected to choose -- as a partisan ? -- between "competing" architects and their works. This is how art is appreciated ?

German plays Spain. May the best team win !

Stephen

flwright
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Post by flwright »

Correction -- Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel was listed by Deborah Berke and Calatrava's Turning Torso building was mentioned by Daniel Libeskind. A single mention for each out of some 200+ selections is hardly a strong showing, however.

On a side note, did anyone notice how many times some of the "experts" listed their own buildings as the most important in the last 30 years (Richard Meier leads the way with 2 out of his 5 selections)? That is SO Frank Lloyd Wright!
Morgan

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Heh-heh. Voting for your own country is against the rules in the Eurovision Song Contest, from what I read. . .

S

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

Of the 22 photographed, I would say Liebeskind's Holocaust Museum is the worst of the lot. It's like he takes a bunch of notions that don't aspire to actual ideas and tosses them about at random.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Oh, the heck with it. . .

Deke
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Post by Deke »

Never a big fan of Leibeskind. He just makes random jagged cuts. The real loser I think is Richard Meier who didn't make much of an impact on the list. I think his work is often terrific.

These lists reflect the era and right now we're in an era of architectural expressionism. Gehry's work and Koolhaas work is more about sculpture. There is little hint in a photo of these buildings as to their scale...ie the number the floors. They are objects, where Wright did follow the age old tradition of at least hinting at the relationship of the building to the humans who function within it. You can look at a picture of a Sullivan building and see how many floors it has, how big the windows are, and deduce how big it is. You can't do that with Guggenheim Bilbao or these other sculptural works. i think this is a fad.

Deke

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I agree the scale-lessness is a deficit. I am not a Liebeskind fan either -- I have not seen a building up close, much less inside -- even the nearby Jewish Museum here. Unlike Gehry's work, however, there seems a direct correlation of inside to outside in Liebeskind, and there are large diagonals which seem made with some thought. Both of these guys, and others, are essentially sculpting, with acres of metal outside and acres of white or cream sheetrock inside. Scaleless and inhuman, from what I can see in photos. The video in which P Johnson and C Rose visit Bilbao with F Gehry, culminating in Johnson standing with tears of joy running down his face, is the low point in this spectacle, for me. . .

S

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

In a television interview, Johnson described himself as a whore who would do anything for dramatic effect, which the crying jag at Bilbao proves.

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