As a gift to myself, I broke down and bought the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, I've been eyeing this bad boy of books for a while, and now it is in my hands MUAHAHAHA! However, if I had known I'd be stupid enough to get a moving violation today I would have put off the purchase. Aside from text books, I think this is the most expensive book I ever bought. Retail price $160 freaking dollars! Insane. Paid about $130 at Borders, only to find it for $105 at Amazon later. Going to return it tomorrow since I just ordered it from Amazon, gotta save money you know!
Earlier in the week in Chicago, I had the opportunity to walk around for a bit. Eyeing the various architectural icons took me back to the earlier years at Carnegie Mellon when I had to memorize buildings for Architectural History. I wish I had gone to visit Chicago then since I would have appreciated it more.
Exposed to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at the Millennium Park I think this might be the first recent Gehry design that I like. Sad but true, the reasoning being that the park was intrinsically looking for a 'sculpture' to get around an old rule that prevented buildings from being built on that piece of park land. Right up Gehry's self inflicted pigeon-holed style. I'm not a big fan of those free forms that have no function tied to them, what I am a big fan of is the exposed structural bracing holding up these forms. They have a purpose and shouldn't be hidden, hence my appreciation for Calatrava's work. I find the rear of this pavilion to be far more interesting than the stage front.
Since the Guggenheim in Bilbao all his clients have been asking for a metal-cladded/titanium panel sheathed building. The public, and especially Gehry should understand that buildings SHOULD be site specific (a debate for another entry) and when you transport the same exact language only executed a little differently, it cheapens both the original building and the imitators. Gerhy should be locked up for this. Aside from the flamboyant statement made by the curves, I don't really see anything else worth bringing to attention. Now that his curvilinear surfaces have been played out there's really nothing else to hate or appreciate. For example, two upcoming projects in Brooklyn, the Nets arena with downplayed curves and a box for a theater with Hardy. Two very lackluster projects. But since they are being built a few blocks from my old stomping grounds in Brooklyn, I'll make it a point to visit these buildings when they are built to at least give them a chance. Unless they have a FedEx arrow hidden somewhere that'll make me say AHA! I doubt I'll be changing my views.
So when you remove the tired style, you just have another conventional commercial architect. But I'll give props to him for being able to do what he wants and not necessarily be at the whim of his clients (except when they go and order him to build another Bilbao knockoff). Watch the Simpsons episode that aired a few weeks back, you'll see just how 'stupid' his forms are. Though it's obviously not how his real process is, it might as well be because simple minded folk like me can't fathom how these buildings 1) have a deeper meaning and invites thoughtful meditation or 2) have forms that really follow the functions of the building. I'm all about 'cool' architecture that does not necessarily have a concept that is easy to communicate, but own up to it at least.
One last thing to note. Just to show you all how much time and thought this celebrity and his firm really puts into his projects, let's take a look at the Disney Concert Hall and recent problems that cost them another $180,000. There have been other problems with the sheathing he used in Bilbao and so after a handful of projects that incorporates these materials, you would think he would have investigated the properties of these materials more indepth. I understand that there are a lot of things architects, engineers and their consultants must take into consideration during the course of a project, but you would think the external cladding would be somewhere in their check list no?