Here Comes Gehry

Photo courtesy of
‘gerhy’s nightmares are better than mines’
courtesy of ‘[charlie cravero]’

While the post on DCMetroCentric may be dated April first, the award is real. Frank Gehry has been selected to design the Eisenhower Memorial in Eisenhower Square (in front of the Dept. of Education). Gehry’s last attempt at a DC structure was the extension to the Corcoran Gallery and School, which was very similar in feeling and shape to some of his more famous recent works, including the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

In this author’s not so humble opinion, thank God that abomination was never approved for construction. In recent years, Frank Gehry has made it his standard procedure to go from city and city and effectively sign his name on each city’s respective urban fabric. These become less objects and monuments to their clients and more so to the architect himself. For Architecture is, or more so should be, a matter of contextual design, especially in a monumental city such as DC.

I will reserve final judgement on the memorial until the design is made public, as some of Gehry’s immediately recent work has moved away from the post-car-wreck-in-titanium look of his exteriors from most of the 90s and aughts. But if it ends up a monument to Gehry as opposed to Eisenhower, I say we send in the 101st Airborne to secure the area. They’ve got a good track record against juggernauts.

More information: Eisenhower Memorial Commission

John has lived in DC since attending CUA’s Architecture school starting in 1995. He is a UI/UX/Design guru for LivingSocial and also plays in numerous bands (Juniper Lane, Rotoscope, Boboroshi & Kynz) and loves hyping people on eating local food, sustainable human settlement patterns, gardening, and good old fashioned rock and roll and electronica. He runs the dirt lab (aka mega garden) for WeLoveDC, where he eats most of the proceeds.

9 thoughts on “Here Comes Gehry

  1. Don’t forget…. one of his very first commissions was the Merriweather Post Pavilion! Hopefully he does a better job this time!

  2. Poor man has clearly have not seen Bilbao for real, nor spoken to the residents of Bilbao who love the building. But he gives the game away when he says that architecture should be a matter of contextual design. Thank goodness cities in general don’t think that way, or we’d be slaves to homogeneity, with no Gehrys, no Louis Kahns, no Frank Lloyd Wrights (Guggenheim New York, contextual?), no Mies van der Rohes, no Maya Lins (thinking of Washington DC.

    Nor is this about Gehry’s ego. He toiled in the wilderness for far too long, and has too much to give to worry about such things, unlike many a younger architect.

    Bravo the Eisenhower Memorial Committee.

  3. As a matter of record, I have actually seen the Guggenheim Bilbao, in person, in 1999. As part of my M. Arch program we spent a day touring it and sketching it, both inside and out. Richard Serra’s piece “Snake” was one of the highlights of the interior tour. I did not have the time to conduct an extensive resident survey of the area.

    Contextual design does not equal homogeneity. If there was no such thing as contextual design, we’d end up with a series of buildings screaming OMG LOOK AT ME I’M RIGHT HERE. Wait, we have that. It’s called the Las Vegas strip. That may have its place, but I sure don’t want to live in a place like that. The Supreme Court building with a 20′ gavel sticking out of the top? etc.

    I am reserving judgement on this particular comission until I see it, and I hope that it will be a piece that fits into the city in which it resides.

  4. @john A Supreme Court building with a 20′ gave sticking out the top? Sounds like something out of “Idiocracy”.

  5. I think the general discussion that tilts one way or the other is that, for one, we cite “name” architects… Pei, Gehry, Wright, etc… and seem to draw even more attention to those individuals. What I think is lost in the shuffle, while many of these “men” are innovative in their approach, thousands of other architects and designers are lost in the shuffle or don’t have the resume to look at in their evolution. As I had pointed out, one of Gehry’s first commissions was a local music venue. Seriously, look at it. It’s unique given it’s time of construction, location and goal. There are now multitudes of other copies of this idea. Gehry himself, obviously has moved on to, in more recent times, more ostentatious projects and designs, mirroring almost nothing of his past. For others, you can see it as an evolution, but some consider it a scattershot attempt to stay on the cusp and relevant.

    The thing is, here… we are talking about it, and I think that’s probably one of the reasons the request was made for him to submit and idea. I could only image if the forks at NYC Port Authority would have asked him for a Freedom Tower idea. For all we know, Ghery’s attempt will be among others, judged on it’s own merit and the whims of the selection committee. Like art, many times architecture is subjective. When I was in my ID class, I really was one of the believers of function over form, but appreciated where I could diverge a bit and stretch an idea or two (or three) out and see where it got me. But still, it all came down to the original requests of, what does it serve to do or say (or so the latter in the case of memorials).

    (sorry for the soap box, but also being [originally] a UI guy, I get a thread and can’t get off.)

  6. David –

    Great points made and yes, Architecture is completely a subjective form. That fact is one of the reasons I stated that I would reserve complete judgement on this particular project until the design is made public.

    I think that constraints are some of the best things that can happen creatively. I feel the FDR memorial is a great example of working within a set of limitations and context while stretching the boundaries a bit.

    I also remember countless juries at CUA and also while visiting UVA where students would justify designs based on “name” architects. A case in point I related to a friend earlier today was a second year jury at UVA for a fire station on Route 29. Within 3 hours I heard a justification of a design because “Zaha Hadid did it”. I’m sorry, but she designed an unbuildable span. While the theory and argument is great, it’s not a buildable project, and no student should be saying “well, so and so did it.” I also saw people with 100 yard (yes, the length of a football field) hallways between sleeping quarters and trucks, because, obviously at 3am a firefighter wants to run a football field while getting dressed to get on a truck. Most of the projects in that jury had nothing to do with context or the site.

    I feel there is this mentality that exists in many schools of following the current darling of the establishment (in my tenure at CUA, Eric Owen Moss was the big guy). I just remember the way Antoine Predock signed his book to me when he came to speak at CUA.

    “Architecture is landscape in drag”

    I’m hoping for the best, but the pessimist in me is assuming the worst. I hope the pessimist be proven wrong.