Famed architect Frank Gehry enthralled a packed auditorium of students and community members at Pratt Institute yesterday afteroon. Speaking with The Architect's Newspaper’s own executive editor Julie V. Iovine and Yael Reisner, author of Architecture and Beauty: Conversations with Architects about a Troubled Relationship, Gehry reminded the budding architects in the audience that his job involves more than just sitting around and creating curvy buildings from crumpled paper--it’s about delivering a finished product to a client, albeit a unique one. Though creativity and the language of the architectural past are not absent from Gehry’s design equation, the architect admitted that he’s often driven by the desire to not repeat what’s already been done. He also feels that it’s important to recognize that inspiration can come from many different places, and that it’s good to “grab ideas as you can get them.” For Gehry, this happens to include the Talmud--studying the age-old Jewish texts is where Gehry learned to ask “why?”, and where he learned that questioning the status quo was okay. Architecturally, that translated into asking himself why chain link fence is considered by many to be a "throwaway" material and made him wonder how he might use it--a move that worked out pretty well for the architect. Sometimes a little tweak can make a building distinctive, like the new 8 Spruce Street building (formerly known as Beekman Tower) in Lower Manhattan. Gehry said that the only change he made from the typical New York City apartment pro-forma was that many of the apartments will have bay windows--a feature often found in historic buildings on the Upper West Side--and that those bay windows help give the skyscraper its distinctive shape. Taking his audience into account, Gehry reminded the students that they have to understand and accept the practicalities of being a working architect: “Be real about your responsibilities,” he said, even if you don’t like them. In light of that, Gehry's most important lesson of all for those in the audience was, “Be yourself, and you’ll like what you do.” When a student in the audience asked a question about materials, Gehry said that he doesn’t necessarily begin a project with materials in mind, but he does like to explore material possibilities (an agenda also promoted by the lecture's sponsors, the Steel and Ornamental Metal Institutes of New York). He also pointed out that aesthetics can relate to budget, and that he often uses what’s available because he still has to deliver a finished product to his client. He was honest about the realities of the job; the everyday stuff one doesn’t always hear architects of this caliber mention--the budget, the client, and that client’s agenda; the construction managers and their often-changing crews; and the cost per square foot (Bilbao came in at $300 per square foot, surprising many in the audience). Despite all of those difficulties, Gehry showed that there is still evidence of all the things that architecture can be--beautiful, awe-inspiring, majestic, and sometimes even formidable--around us every day.
Posts tagged with "Pratt Institute":
Pratt Institute was founded in 1886 by Charles Pratt, who had sold his family’s Astral Oil works to Standard Oil in 1874. It was Pratt’s original intention that the school train industrial workers for the changing economy of the 19th century, and this it did for many years before growing into one of the leading art and design schools in the country. Like any institution, the school has had its stellar moments and its sleepy periods. The art department has been a training ground for dozens of important American artists, and its architecture school once had faculty like Sibyl Moholy-Nagy and experimental designers like John Johansen, Michael Webb, and Raimund Abraham. Pratt even spawned this country’s most important community advocacy organization: the Pratt Center, founded by Ron Shiffman, a legend in the world of community planning. Having weathered a rough stretch 15 years ago, when it was nearly bankrupt, the institute has undergone a transformation under its current president, Thomas Schutte. He has built a sizable endowment, upgraded the campus buildings and grounds (including a Steven Holl-designed school of architecture), strengthened its academic programs, and turned the institute into a design powerhouse with many of its programs rated in the top ten nationally. Typical of its notion of itself as a New York-centered institution, tonight it will honor Marc Jacobs, David Rockwell, and Patti Smith at a special scholarship benefit party. If you want to see how far the school’s industrial and product design departments have come, though, you can visit the new Rogers Marvel-designed townhouses at 115 Third Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Under the direction of Professor Anthony Caradonna, the institute has cleverly used both faculty- and student-designed furniture and household objects to furnish the residence, and has thrown in pieces by famed graduates including Eva Zeisel, Giovanni Pellone, Harry Allen, and William Katavolos.