Working 9-5, at...
[waldrip architects/ s.a.] [architecture- los angeles]
Alberti, Sandro 3rd Base; 1 November, 2002 [text26]
‘WA/SA’, ‘Aloha8’, and ‘Working 9 to 5, at...’
are fictions of fen-om: [www.fen-om.com]
From a recent LA Times article on Frank Gehry: “In a celebrity-obsessed age, Frank Gehry has attained a stature that would make Andy Warhol quiver with jealousy.” “There is increasing evidence that, at 73, Gehry has not yet reached the point of creative exhaustion.” Gehry.
“[In the near future, he will abandon] the Santa Monica house that has stood at the center of his architectural identity for decades… A move to Venice can be read as an effort to reconnect to earlier ideals… At the same time, many of his recent projects suggest a desire to stretch the boundaries of his aesthetic vision.”
“Such changes… point toward a new chapter in Gehry’s life, the third and final act in a long and prolific career.” “Gehry can claim two major breakthroughs in his career.” “Beneath his sometimes gruff manor and rumpled appearance, he is mellowing. And increasingly, he seems to be driven by a renewed sense of introspection. He is more apt to reflect on his early experiences as an architect. To some degree, this is taking him back to an earlier language.”
“The project that most suggests a shift in Gehry’s creative sensibility is the Museum of Biodiversity in Panama. In the design, still in its early stages, galleries are sheltered beneath a dense network of overlapping roof canopies, their colorful, folded planes evoking a cloud of butterflies that have come to rest on a tree branch. Underneath, bridges crisscross the space to connect the various galleries.” ----A 3rd stage, leading to mellowed, introspective, and shifting creativity. Third and last, as opposed to 5th and continuing, for example (a course at the ‘La Sapienza’ architecture department in Rome recently described Gehry’s work as consisting of 5 stages: Assembly, Spatiality, Separation, Fusion, and Liquefaction). So, wherein lies the focus, here? How is Gehry being ‘branded’ now, in his hometown? Is it about a
final stage, an ending, or simply about a next step? It certainly seems more like a polite farewell than renewed publicity. It could be his age, or simply his fame (both, ‘too much already’). Or it could simply be that,… a new ‘brand’ (let us be proactive in the realization that, as consumers of the ‘Gehry product’, he could simply be becoming ‘too much’; re-packaging the product leads to a renewed sense of novelty, and connection, if the new ‘look’ is a bit more ‘down-to-earth’). Maybe we should look at this more directly. I walk into Schoenberg Hall, and its auditorium (odd venue for a ‘grand architecture’ lecture; these are usually held at the ‘old’ art school, UCLA’s latest target for structural retrofitting). I find myself there, looking at all those individuals, congregating half an hour early. Who is it that comes to hear Frank Gehry speak these days? Is branding enough to attract a crowd (even without a complementary bar)? Well, yes, indeed. Enough to fill 1200 seats, early. ‘Younger’ architecture students, mostly, but also some more established ‘types’, like the lady seated behind me, a graduate from the 1970’s, and the various A+UD instructors scattered about, mostly up front. And here I had been, rooting for the ‘other’ (the fresher alternative provided by Dagmar Richter at a concurrent lecture at SCI-Arc; well, before she cancelled). Where was FOG, anyway? Backstage, perhaps. A few rows ahead, none of the tufts of white hair shined quite as brightly, against the elegant halogens… Introduction by Sylvia Lavin: “Frank Gehry is by now a true celebrity.” “I wanted to say something about his role as a teacher…” [Gehry as young architect and celebrity student, who is only getting younger]. Gehry’s arrival onstage, with a personalized transition. He has known Sylvia for many years (as he has been a close friend of her parents). ‘Tempus fugit’ [Sylvia is not a child anymore]. As he has gotten older, he thinks about how much more time he has to do things. Since the press feels everything current looks like Bilbao, he has chosen to present all of his ‘previous’ projects, “starting since my Bar-Mitzvah.” 1. The first house. Of ‘Asian’ style, it was not developed the way he had designed it. It fits into the ‘California scene’ because of its wood framing. 2. 1959 (5 years after graduating from college): a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home. Some time later, an addition was designed, in a ‘conflicting’ style (thus the addition was not accepted by the client). 3. Small jewelry warehouse at Fairfax/ Pico, with a Japanese garden that disappeared when Fairfax was widened. This project led to other store commissions. 4. A 6-unit development with apartments in ocean Park. 5. A period of Paul Rudolph-inspired highrises. 6. Melrose Avenue minimalist ‘surface architecture’. An image of it may be found in Reyner Banham’s ‘4 Ecologies’. 7. A recreation center in Santa Maria. At this time, Gehry had worked briefly at Bruen’s office. 8. The Merriweather Post pavilion for the Washington Symphony. 9. Hermosa Beach master plan, with various exhibition designs.
10. Joseph Magnin retail in Costa Mesa (late ‘60s), + another one in San Jose. The design included sophisticated ‘modular’ video projections, but nothing was modified for a couple of years. A subsequent interview of store employees discovered that not enough money was allocated by management to update these elements (money margins are always tighter than one expects). 11. Housing, focusing on sophisticated acoustic separations. 12. Gehry’s famous cardboard chairs launch at Bloomingdales. 13. Second iteration of the Hollywood Bowl. 14. $2000 hay barn in corrugated metal that delighted Gehry because “it disappeared against the sky.” It is here that he begins to become interested in metal surfaces and unification of exterior envelopes. 15. Several warehouses + housing. 16. Concord music pavilion. 17. Gemini G.E.L. studio on Melrose (where Gehry currently displays 40”-cube fiberglass shells, mini ‘horse’s heads’, for sale at some $50,000). 18. Deconstruction of a trellis at a beach house. 19. A condo development that got him into eternal lawsuits. 20. Stairs and lighting at the Santa Monica pier. 21. UCLA Student/ Career Placement Center. 22. Some building in Iowa (he didn’t remember where it was, exactly). 23. Interior design of law firm on Wilshire (neglecting to consider space requirements for moving in furniture). 24. His sister’s kitchen, + exposed trellis/ shading system. 25. He begins to use chain link because it is so ‘pervasive’. People disliked it. Could it be ‘humanized’? [let us remember that recently, the chain-link motif at Santa Monica Place was removed] 26. Chiat-Day agency. 27. A Hollywood residence, where a new house was built around an old house [sound familiar?]. 28. A show at the Max Protech gallery. Gehry’s sketches were rejected, so he decided to make “awful” cardboard furniture instead. 29. The Cabrillo Marine Museum, which included chain link as an envelope-sculpture that secured the perimeter. “It cost as much as marble!” 30. A small pavilion in New Orleans. 31. A bank in Burbank. 32. Three studios on Indiana in Venice. He never got paid for this [beware, young architects!]. 33. Various competitions. 34. Aerospace museum, full of leaks. The only contractor who would build it for the price did a shoddy job [beware, young architects!]. 35. ‘Morandi’ (juxtaposition of odd elements) in a garden pavilion. 36. Temporary-Contemporary (Now ‘Geffen’ museum) trellis + remodel. “When you don’t do very much, people love it!” 37. Leo Castelli-induced follies (snake and fish; prison and visiting room). This led to various projects. 38. Lamp objects and small buildings. 39. Sirmai-Peterson house in Thousand Oaks.
40. More competitions and unbuilt designs. 41. Larger buildings. 42. Dallas mixed-use apartments (could this have inspired Quigley’s San Diego library?) 43. Snake and Fish, now in Japan. Final product is a result of language differences, cultural differences, and broken pieces. 44. Chiat/ Day + more ‘fish’ commissions. 45. A house in Malibu. 46. A Disney ‘freeway building’ in the 1990’s. 47. A free job for the Sheet Metal Association (in exchange for help in future projects…). 48. Jay Chiat interiors in Toronto (see ‘Chiat’ as patron of architecture). 49. ‘Sandwiches’ franchise for Chiat. 50. Lewis House. “It includes icons, but they disappear in the commotion.” 51. Bif fish sculpture in Barcelona. 52. Bentwood furniture. 53. Goldstein public housing. 54. Various urban schemes, including a high-rise project in Mexico. 55. Disney double ice rink. 56. Molecular Biology building in Cincinnati. 57. Korean Museum of Modern Art. 58. Ronald McDonald ‘waiting’ house. 59. ‘Cancer club house’ in Dundee, Scottland. 60. A ‘pseudo-blob’ tract house in Germany. 61. Art Center in Pasadena, with Alvaro Siza (very fresh). 62. Venice airport, a covered ‘fluid’ space in the water. 63. A Princeton University project. 64. Panama tourist/ cultural center (for a country with horizontal rain and a Darwinian clash of fauna, flora, and oceans). The Mysterious Huevo; An Evening with Frank Gehry; 100% Neutral (Woodbury- San Diego AIAA journal); November, 2002 After a long, arduous (but fun) drive through hellish Los Angeles traffic with my friends, we arrived at our destination: Schoenberg Hall at UCLA, to see none other than (drum roll please)… Frank O. Gehry… We arrived to a packed lecture hall, teeming with Gehry admirers, curiosity seekers, architecture clones, and assorted others… Gehry… presented a slideshow of his early and lesserknown projects, leaving out his more recent work because he claimed that it would “bore” us, as it has been published “ad nauseum”… His slideshow was interesting in terms of how prolific of an architect he is. [He] showed literally hundreds of slides,… spanning 40 years of work. The scope and vastness of his work was impressive, if nothing else. Like many other architects, Gehry started out doing chintzy tract-home-type residences and strip malls… It was an interesting historical look at Gehry’s work, but what was sad about it was that he didn’t seem excited about his work… There were several projects he couldn’t even recall the names of, or hadn’t even visited [post-factum]! It was as if we were watching a shadow of [an]… architect… -----
Indeed. Some things to be derived from this student article: 1. People drive up from all the way from San Diego to LA, to experience Gehry. He certainly is ‘big’. 2. At Gehry’s 10-14-02 lecture, something was ‘afoot’… First of all, this was not an originallyscheduled lecture. It was slapped on some weeks earlier, on the same date the SCI-Arc lecture series suffered a similar transformation, where Dagmar Richter became the additive. There seemed to be a particular need to produce this reconstituted presentation of Gehry; as Nicolai Ouroussoff had manufactured in the LA Times, a career in 3 acts: Act 1: Fractured forms Gehry first came to prominence in 1978, with the design of his Santa Monica house, and the next few years were some of the most fertile of his career. Projects such as the Winton Guest House in Wayzata, Minn., and the Norton House in Venice, Calif., were crude, box-like structures that often seemed torn apart by internal forces. Stud walls were left exposed; simple forms crashed together at odd angles. Act 2: Metallurgist In the 1990s, Gehry began experimenting with more fluid, sensuous forms, mostly in metal. The most famous of these is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, whose curvaceous exterior, clad in shimmering titanium panels, caused an international sensation. In Los Angeles, Disney Hall’s layered metal skin has been likened to a rose in bloom. Other works, such as the DZ Bank Building in Berlin, internalized this energy, embedding similarly curvaceous forms in a more stoic exterior. Act 3: Homeward In the past few years, Gehry has been striving to create new aesthetic challenges for himself. His Ohr-O’Keefe Museum, in Biloxi, Miss., still in design stages, marks a partial return to a language he mostly abandoned a decade ago. A current design for the Museum of Biodiversity in Panama creates a new formal imagery of folding, overlapping planes. The 3rd act, this is what is looming… Necessary to call this career a ‘full presentation’? To me, like the LA Times article, the lecture at UCLA was indicative of an ‘ending’. It was almost as if Frank Gehry was saying goodbye. Sure, we will see him at the premiere of the concert hall in Los Angeles, and there are these ‘other’ projects on the works. But there is much to be inferred from his recent words, gestures, and expressions. Something personal, introspective. Is this merely a branding strategy? Gehry design might continue beyond Gehry himself (as the Versace fashion line, post-Gianni). I leave you with that thought, as this article already spans too many paragraphs, even for Gehry.