An early Frank Gehry–designed house about an hour south of Minneapolis is on the move—again. The Winton Guest House, which Gehry designed in the early 1980s for Penny and Mike Winton, sits on property in Owatonna, Minnesota recently sold by the building's owner, the University of St. Thomas. They have until August 2016 to relocate the playful, postmodern cluster of forms. It's not the first time the house has been relocated. In 2008 the university divided the structure into eight sections for the 110-mile move from its original site west of the Twin Cities on Lake Minnetonka. Last year the university sold its Gainey C. Gainey Conference Center property, on which the Winton house now sits. Victoria Young, chair of the department of art history at the University of St. Thomas, said there are several options for the move. “We could move the house back up to campus now. We could store the house and move it onto campus in conjunction with building a new Fine Arts Center, something that has been talked about a bit, we could sell the house at auction or a cultural organization could step up and save it. Or a donor could come to be and make any of these things happen,” she said. But wherever it ends up, she added, “my administration has committed to getting the house off the property before the August 2016 deadline, when it would become the property of the new owners.” Young meets with the University body overseeing the move, the Physical Facilities Planning Committee of St. Thomas' Board of Trustees, on Feb. 18, and is expected to determine a course of action the next day. The University has hired Consultant Chris Madrid French, a preservationist and former director of the now-defunct Modernism + Recent Past Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. French pulled off a similar move with the historic Capen House in Winter Park, Florida. An early and relatively modest example of Gehry's work, the Winton House offers a glimpse at the residential design sensibilities of an architect who would go on to achieve stardom for theaters, pavilions and museums. “I would love for the house to be open to the public to showcase the early part of Frank’s career, when he began working outside California and when important clients, Mike and Penny Winton, gave him the freedom to create art out of architectural form,” said Young. “This paved the way for the Weisman Art Museum, Guggenheim Bilbao, etc. Gehry is one of the most important architects of the twentieth century, and I am committed to a preservation of his legacy.”
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When a huge piece of a starchitect-designed building comes crashing to the ground, the architectural world tends to notice. We are of course talking about the recent reaction to the 176-pound piece of concrete that fell off Zaha Hadid's Library and Learning Centre at Vienna University of Economics and Business. Making matters worse for Hadid, this is the second time the building has shed a piece of its skin. But Zaha is not alone; shed(-ding) happens. As we wait to hear what exactly happened in Vienna - an initial report suggests the issue stems from "defective installation" of the facade - we put together a list of some other starchitect buildings that have, let's say, lost a little bit of themselves. First, let’s go back in time—back to 1970s Boston when Henry Cobb's Hancock Tower is straight-up dropping 500-pound glass panes (at least 65 of them) onto the city below like in some sort of horror movie where buildings have rejected their human creators. Terrifying stuff. In a Pulitzer Prize–winning story, the Boston Globe reported on what exactly caused the building's window system to catastrophically fail:
Each panel was a sandwich: two layers of glass with an air space between, all held in a metal frame. To cut the glare and heat of the sun, a coat of reflective chromium was placed on the inside surface of the outside pane of glass. (This layer of chrome was what gave the building its mirror effect.) The window frame was bonded to the chrome with a lead solder. During the testing, it was noticed that when a window failed, the failure began when a tiny J-shaped crack appeared at the edge of an outside pane of glass. What was happening was this: The lead solder was bonding too well with the chrome—so well, so rigidly, that the joint couldn't absorb any movement. But window glass always moves. It expands and contracts with changes in temperature, and it vibrates with the wind. So the solder would fatigue and crack. The crack would telegraph through to the glass, and the cycle of failure would begin.Next we turn to Santiago Calatrava–the Spanish architect with a penchant for creating soaring buildings that are often accompanied by soaring budgets; for more on that, just Google Santiago Calatrava. Great. But right now let's focus on his Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts that opened in Valencia in 2005. The structure, which CityLab perfectly described as a mix between a bird's skull and a stormtrooper's helmet, had to be repaired because pieces of its tile mosaic facade were blowing off in high winds. And then just last year in London, two steel bolts the size of human arms dislodged from Richard Rogers' Leadenhall Building, which is better known as the "Cheesegrater." Thankfully, nobody was injured from the incident. But that's not the end of the Cheesegrater bolt story. As recently as last week, it was reported that a third bolt had fractured on the building. British Land, a developer of the building, said in a statement that the broken piece was "captured by precautionary tethering put in place last year." That's good. After some tests, it was concluded that "bolts had fractured due to a material failure mechanism called Hydrogen Embrittlement." Many bolts are now being replaced, but the developer insists there is, "no adverse effect on the structural integrity of the building." Now, let's head back stateside to Chicago. Do you remember that time the glass coating on the Willis Tower's observation deck cracked? If you were the tourists standing on the SOM-designed attraction 1,353 feet above the city you probably do. Sure, while everyone was fine and nothing was structurally wrong, just imagine being the people up there when that happened—just imagine that. Of course this list of high-profile architects would find its way to Frank Gehry. A while back the most famous architect of them all was sued by MIT for supposed flaws in his $300 million Stata Center. While pieces of the building didn't fall off, it was said to have leaks, cracks, and drainage problems. “These things are complicated,” Gehry told the New York Times after the suit was filed, “and they involved a lot of people, and you never quite know where they went wrong. A building goes together with seven billion pieces of connective tissue. The chances of it getting done ever without something colliding or some misstep are small.” And now let's end this list where we started it, with Zaha Hadid. Just a year after her dramatic Guangzhou Opera House opened in China, it began showing problems—lots of problems. In 2011, the Guardian reported that "large cracks have appeared in the walls and ceilings, glass panels have fallen from [Opera House] windows, and rain has seeped relentlessly into the building." In fairness to Zaha, the Wall Street Journal noted that when it comes to construction practices in China, architects have little say.
Up-and-coming architect Frank Gehry recently sat down with the New York Times to discuss his Guggenheim museum under construction on Saadiyat Island near Abu Dhabi. The eccentric or idiosyncratic or whimsical structure totals 450,000 square feet, making it 12 times larger than the Guggenheim in New York. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is defined by multiple cones that Gehry says were influenced by teepees because of how they remove hot air. The design is also supposed to evoke the domes of mosques around the Middle East. Although that's a bit harder to discern. On Saadiyat Island, Gehry's museum will be joined by other lavish projects from Zaha Hadid, Rafael Viñoly, Tadao Ando, and Jean Nouvel. These architects, and their clients, have faced scrutiny for the notoriously bad labor conditions in the region. But back in September, Gehry addressed these concerns in an interview with Architectural Record. In a statement, the architect's firm said, “Gehry Partners has been engaged in a substantial and on-going dialogue over many years now that has involved government, the construction industry, architects, project, sponsors and NGOs." Record added, "Gehry may be the first prominent architect to take steps towards labor reform on Saadiyat Island." If you like, give the video a look, but be warned there's a lot of self congratulations and opining on world affairs.
Bjarke Ingels is slated to join elder architectural statesmen Norman Foster and Frank Gehry at the Battersea Power Station in London. The multi-billion dollar, mixed-use redevelopment was originally master planned by, yes, another starchitect, Rafael Viñoly. Ingels' firm, BIG, joins the bunch after winning a competition to design a public space for the project called Malaysia Square. Why is it called Malaysia Square? Because, lest the Brits forget, the project is backed by a Malaysian development consortium. BIG's plan for Malaysia Square goes beyond the name; it takes its form and design from the caves of the country's Gunung Mulu National Park. The Battersea developers describe the space as a “two-level urban canyon.” To that end, Malaysia Square is clad in limestone, granite, marble, sandstone, gravel, and has dolomite striation. The square's natural materials are sculpted into a dramatic design, but don't necessarily make for the most comfortable place to stretch out. Before unveiling Malaysia Square, London Mayor Boris Johnson addressed criticism that the Battersea Power Station development has too few affordable units and will just be another investment opportunity for wealthy foreigners. (15 percent of the plan is currently "affordable.) “I think 600 affordable homes are better than no affordable homes," Johnson told the Guardian. "If you didn’t do a deal of this kind you couldn’t get either the transport or the affordable homes so that’s the reality." The mayor also said that the development comes with two new Tube stations and the first extension of the system in a quarter century [h/t Dezeen]
Who’s most irked by the Frank Gehry backlash currently underway in press rooms from Sydney to Spruce Street? Why, Frank Gehry, of course. At a press conference in Oviedo, Spain, Gehry replied to one journalist’s implication that Gehry’s architecture was just about spectacle with a spectacle of his own: He gave the journalist the middle finger. A grumpy Gehry (who later apologized and blamed his behavior on jet lag) went on to explain that “98 percent of everything that is built and designed today is pure shit.” If only every architectural press conference were so interesting! Gehry's also ruffled some feathers in Chicago, penning an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune that chides a public skeptical about George Lucas' proposed Museum of Narrative Art. "Please do not dismiss it because it doesn't look like something you've never seen before," Gehry admonished from the page—one he shares with Blair Kamin, the Tribune's Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic, a design commentator with his own harsh words about the museum as presented thus far.
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] Frank Gehry has offered up another design for his remarkably controversial Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D.C. The revised approach comes a few months after the National Capital Planning Commission shot down Team Gehry’s last design which included massive metal tapestries and columns that obstructed views of the capitol dome. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] For the new iteration, Gehry ditches the large tapestries and columns that frame either end of the site, but he hasn't given up entirely on the tapestry idea just yet. The memorial still includes the significant mesh screen that runs the length of the memorial and is supposed to depict the Kansas landscape where Ike grew up. Overall, the commissioners seemed to appreciate the design changes, but let's not overstate things. DCist reported that Ellen McCarthy, the director of Washington's Office of Planning, questioned the team’s decision to keep two freestanding 80-foot columns at the site. The director reportedly compared them to left-over pieces at the end of a Planet of the Apes movie. California congressman Darrell Issa said they look more like the structural columns holding up Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. Still, Issa said he would rather move forward with this plan than start over with an entirely new design. The panel will vote on the revised plan at its next meeting.
We like to give Frank Gehry a hard time for his foibles, but he has actually undertaken a lot of pro bono work, including a Make It Right home in New Orleans and the Pasadena Playhouse and Jazz Bakery Theater in Los Angeles. His latest effort is in one of the most troubled neighborhoods in Los Angeles: Watts. Gehry Partners has agreed to design a new campus for the Childrens Institute (CII), a social services non-profit. They're collaborating with Inglewood firm (fer) Studio, who will be Executive Architect. The 2-acre, 50,000-square-foot campus, at 1522 East 102nd Street, will be located near the famed Watts Towers, by far the most recognizable structure in the area, and near what was once downtown Watts. While both teams have been working for about three months, the designs are not developed yet, (fer) Studio's Chris Mercier told AN. But the program will include a multi-purpose space, an art room, a kitchen, activity rooms, sports facilities, a tech lab, offices, counseling rooms, and observation spaces. "It will have a friendly, you're ready to relax atmosphere," said Mercier. The varied rooms will be scattered and integrated throughout the center and often connected to the outdoors, making people more comfortable going through counseling. The facility will allow the organization to expand its support services to over 5,000 families in the Watts area, said CII. CII president Nina Revoyr seems optimistic. "We're not going to build Disney Hall in the middle of Watts," she told the LA Times. "But that being said, the idea is that this will be something special." So many efforts to jumpstart the neighborhood have failed in the past, but Revoyr told the Times that the group has "seven figure commitments" for the project, so perhaps this one will move ahead?
The surprises keep coming at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). After learning that the museum plans to shift its proposed Peter Zumthor–designed building southward (partially bridging Wilshire Boulevard) to avoid damaging the La Brea Tar Pits, now comes news that the museum is hoping to partner with LA's transit agency, METRO, to build a tower across the street. LACMA Director Michael Govan's choice for an architect? Frank Gehry. "That's my dream," Govan told the LA Times' Christopher Hawthorne. "I'm jealous that New York has a Gehry tower and we don't." The tower would be located near Wilshire and Fairfax, near the site of the current A+D Architecture + Design Museum, which is being torn down to make way for a staging ground for Metro's Purple Line expansion. Ironically Govan said he hopes to build his own Architecture and Design wing there. No word on the tower's design or height, or on whether it will even happen. But Gehry has acknowledged discussing the plan with Govan. "I'm open to it," he told Hawthorne. So far Govan and Gehry have been unavailable for comment to AN. There are so many obstacles standing in the way of these grand schemes. But a post on LACMA's blog points out that if they go ahead, one block of LA's Miracle Mile will contain designs by three Pritzker Prize winners— Gehry, Zumthor, and Renzo Piano, who not only designed two new buildings for LACMA, but is designing (now solo) the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.
When Frank Gehry’s renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is complete, the iconic institution won’t necessarily look like one of his signature works—at least from the outside. The architect isn't touching the icon's Beaux-Arts exterior, but is, instead, transforming the museum’s interior to improve circulation and boost gallery space. But even then, Gehry’s work won’t be all that “Gehry.” AN recently toured the museum’s exhibit on Gehry’s masterplan and got a chance to hear from the man himself about the museum renovations. On the tour, Gehry explained how he reimagined the building’s interior with a distinctive signature, but one that is inspired by the building’s DNA. “I think if it’s built, you’ll know somebody like me was here,” he said. This renovation has been a long time coming. And it will be a long time still before it's finally realized. The idea to update the museum was born in the 1990s and completing Gehry’s entire overhaul could take 10–15 years more. “If they wait five years, I’ll be 90,” Gehry said. “So for me, get going.” Given his age, and his storied career, AN asked Gehry about what else he wants to accomplish. “I’m so superstitious,” he said before explaining that he wants to increase his involvement in arts education. He mentioned his participation in the Turnaround Arts initiative—a presidential program, which aims to close the achievement gap through arts and music education. He told a story about going into a school in California and teaching kids how to plan and imagine cities. Gehry added that children are often marginalized in “ghetto schools.” “That’s what I’m interested in, that kind of stuff," said Gehry. "I am also designing a sailboat." Which, of course seems entirely appropriate given his predilection for sailing. He does, after all, already own a boat called FOGGY, which stands for his initials: Frank Owen Gehry. These days, it seems, every starchitect needs a boat in his or her oeuvre. Hear that Zaha and Norman? Frank will see you at the regatta.
Frank Gehry has had a hell of time with this Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. Since the architect was selected to design the memorial in 2009, his plans to honor Ike have been met with sustained and scathing backlash. Countless columnists have pilloried Gehry's design, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts objected to key elements of the memorial, Eisenhower's granddaughter compared the metal tapestries that frame the site to fences at a Nazi concentration camp, congress rejected $49 million in construction funding for the project, and then, in April, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted 7-3 to reject the the plan. But it's going to take more than that to stop Gehry. According to Reuters, the architect will unveil a revised design to the Planning Commission at their next meeting in July. It will be interesting to see what that means for the most controversial element of the project: the 80-foot-tall columns and the large metal tapestries, which are intended to depict the Kansas landscape where Eisenhower grew up. Here is Gehry explaining his proposal to the NCPC in 2010.
We’ve known for some time now that ex MOCA director Richard Koshalek has returned to Los Angeles from D.C., where he recently stepped down as director of the Hirshhorn Museum. Now we know one of his exploits: We hear that he is consulting Frank Gehry on the organization of his vast archives. Maybe this means there will someday be a Gehry museum? Certainly the architect is not getting any younger, so we may hear more soon.
Eighty-five year old Frank Gehry has been named the laureate of the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts for his design for the Guggenheim Bilbao. He beat out thirty-six other candidates to become the sixth architect to win this illustrious honor. Gehry's titanium design for the Guggenheim opened in 1997 and helped to breath new life into the industrial city. According to the jury, "His buildings are characterized by a virtuoso play of complex shapes, the use of unusual materials, such as titanium, and their technological innovation, which has also had an impact on other arts. An example of this open, playful and organic style of architecture is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which, in addition to its architectural and aesthetic excellence, has had an enormous economic, social and urban impact on its surroundings as a whole."