October 22, 2003

New Gehry Building - Slightly Better than the Guggenheim Bilbao

Posted by shonk at 02:19 AM in Art | TrackBack

Frank Gehry has a new building opening this week, the Disney Concert Hall. Stylistically, the exterior looks relatively similar to his famous Guggenheim Bilbao, which is far from my favorite building in the world, though I have to admit that I tend to agree with the author of the article that the constraints inherent in building on a city lot had a beneficial effect on Gehry's design. As for the interior, though, I can't say I agree with the author's gushings. Of course, I haven't actually been there, so maybe I'd like it in person, but it just doesn't do it for me. And can you imagine ponying up big bucks for a side seat on opening night, only to get a crick in your neck from having to look over your shoulder at the stage?

Now, why don't I like Gehry? It's not because he was born in Toronto, but rather because he seems to forget half of the time that he's an architect, not a sculptor. He seems to forget that a building, ultimately, has to be lived in or worked in, not just looked at and admired. The forms that he uses don't flow from their function and, in some cases, actually impede their function. The Guggenheim Bilbao is more spectacle than museum.

Now, I admit, my views have been colored by those of my architect father, who's seen Gehry as an attention-seeker looking to shock people since his inside-out California residence and Norton residence from the late 70's/early 80's. The pointlessly offset windows in this offering would also, I suspect, raise my father's ire. "Edgy" though they may be, I think they just look stupid. Ultimately, I think that's my main beef with Gehry's designs, apart from their lack of functionality: I just don't think it looks very good. And before you accuse me of stodgy conservatism, I just want to point out that I'm a big fan of both Frank Lloyd Wright and Antonio Gaudí, so it's not like I can't deal with anything but straight lines and hopeless conformity.

Now, I know Curt doesn't agree with my opinion on Gehry, based on long arguments we've had. So I'm expecting him to respond with a completely different opinion. But keep in mind that he's a fan of this monstrosity (or, if you're really lazy, just look at the picture). I kid, of course. Curt has a good artistic sense; he and I just differ on this particular issue.