ver since his California house, Gehry’s architecture has always dealt a harsh blow to clichés. The tradition is to give buildings an appearance that clearly expresses their function. Electricity is a product of technology, so the seat of a company in this sector ought to wear a mask that consistently expresses its identity. However, when this vision crystallizes itself in a closed methodology, it limits the designer’s creativity. Standardization is almost always the enemy of invention, which itself is often the result of unexpected circumstances, and born of transgression. Reminiscent of a sort of miniature Nordic village, the new headquarters for the Minden-Ravensberg Electricity Board looks like a theatre set designed for a fairy tale, and set to Celtic music. Estrangement versus involvement. Estrangement is a device taken from the theatre world, which can also be applied to structural design to create architecture that is free from superstructures and mannerisms. In Brechtian theatre, for example, the actor must resist becoming emotionally involved with his character in order to maintain his critical judgment. In much the same way, architecture must avoid dressing up in the trite and commonplace “stage costumes” of overused and abused clichés. Gehry’s architecture is often compared with sculpture to give it a convenient label and to account for its stylistic complexity. The notion of sculpture, however, is not exhaustive since any definition based on similarity is inevitably disorienting and incomplete. In actual fact, Gehry does not sculpt because this process assumes the removal or the
addition of material into a compact body, or achieving the same end result using more sophisticated techniques like fusion, for instance. In contrast to sculpture, architecture is the bringing together of spaces designed to express a spatialtemporal experience. But Gehry throws in an additional element by re-opening the age-old question of the relation between art and architecture. And he does so with great determination: by sweeping aside certain formerly immutable assumptions. He offers a different interpretation of the relationship between scales and the way in which certain materials work with the architectural complex as a whole, like mobile devices that become sensitive to both the natural environment and the imagination. A clear example for everyone to see is the titanium strip surfacing used, which is so thin it becomes flexible and moves with the wind, making the facade glimmer with everchanging light. The totally unorthodox use of different scales can be found in the building in Bad Oeynhausen. The building is not a compact structure, but the result of an explosion that transformed it into the many units and fragments of a hypothetical village spread over a geographically limited area but conjuring up visions with a highly charged emotional content. All of Gehry’s works are architectural events, which may age more quickly than other structures, but which reflect the present with great intensity. They will sediment in our collective imagination as the fragments of a period gone mad, in which architecture lost its innocence without falling into nostalgia.
Planimetria generale. Qui a fianco, immagine complessiva e, in basso, la fronte sud, con gli uffici del centro di calcolo e la centrale termica. Site plan. Opposite, overall image and, bottom, south front showing the offices of the computer center and heat supply unit.