Thursday, May 13, 2004
Geeks Crit Gehry
I had a free afternoon in Boston, so I went to see Frank Gehry's much ballyhooed new Stata Center at MIT. It was a rainy day and the building was still about two weeks away from the grand opening: I saw it from the street only.
From that perspective, it was just silly. Are those ski jumps? Or did Gehry want to show that his Case Western building that dumps snow on students' heads wasn't a mistake? (The ski ramps mark a garage entrance and a pedestrian entrance.)
Ski jumps aside, just look at the picture: Is that anyway to make a streetscape?
Re Geeks Crit Gehry: The current issue of Wired has an article about the building which includes comments from some of the tenants:
And then there's the square-corner brigade. As recently as November, with only finish work remaining, one emeritus faculty member informed CSAIL director Brooks that "the slanted walls are unacceptable and must change." Go geeks.More info below.
From the Wired article:
Given Stata's crew, it's no surprise that a lot of the gripes focus on their caves - or lack thereof. Stata has 370 lockable offices for 1,000 people, and math is something this crowd is good at. When Microsoft comes to recruit, notes one doctoral candidate, "one of their big selling points is: 'Our offices have doors.' With the kind of focused work people do here, spin-up and spin-down times are excessive." (Translation: Distractions are bad.) Gehry's team came up with plywood partitions. To which the grad students answered: Dilbert.
The other great whine is wasted space. The four-story atriums at the bottom of each tower are explained in design specs as accommodating "experiments that require tall spaces, such as those involving remote-control helicopters." You don't need a PhD to spot a rationalization. Says a senior programming researcher: "I've already got an architect looking at what we might do to fill ours in."
And then there's the square-corner brigade. As recently as November, with only finish work remaining, one emeritus faculty member informed CSAIL director Brooks that "the slanted walls are unacceptable and must change." Go geeks.
I couldn't get around to the back of the building this time, which looks more interesting, if a bit too much like Toon Town. I'll go back next time.
Perhaps I should add that I once spent all day driving from Marseille to Bilbao to see Gehry's Guggenheim, which I loved. And I stayed two nights just to see it properly: it's the Stata Center on the street that I found silly, not Gehry.
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» Gehry Geeks, Again from Art=Design=Invention
Interesting piece by John Massengale, Geeks Crit Gehry, on the new MIT Strata Center, also referencing a Wired article on this Post-modernist jargon project by Frank Gehry. The first casualties of Gehry's latest attempt at the same design as before... [Read More]
Tracked on May 14, 2004 10:02:48 PM
» We hold these truths to be self-evident from Veritas et Venustas
Gehry's Atlantic Yards project is discussed at the end of the post. FRANK GEHRY''s work is best when it is a single object that sits in contrast with its surroundings. To wit: his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain is a metal building on a prominent si... [Read More]
Tracked on May 23, 2006 3:10:45 PM
Gehry's pieces really are just projects, not buildings, and continue the Philip Johnson mini-tradition of buildings as objects (or found objects,) like the giant tube of The Lipstick Building, or Victorian chair back (former Sony Building, New York.) The Guggenheim Bilbao is impressive. Inside, however, are enormous spaces custom designed to house behemoth Minimalist/Conceptual metal slabs by Gehry's compatriot Richard Serra.
In the MIT photos in the Wired article, I thought at first glance that the rounded object in the center was a Richard Serra project, one of the more recent metal slab spirals. Then I noticed a window or other square form cut into the side of it. This may be why the architecture has to look like a combo of twisted metal wreckage and expressionist set designs of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," to distinguish ham-fisted, arrogant, obnoxious Minimalist sculpture projects from the larger project that houses it. That all of these projects have the typically "challenging" what-would-the-Bauhaus-do and what-does-Philip-Johnson-think look of art school/design projects is no accident.
By the way, when is someone going to remove the giant swirl of metal toilet paper Gehry splayed between the domes of the Guggenheim Museum, New York? It looks like a Godzilla-sized 12 year old had fun rolling it as a prank one night, but someone forgot to clean it up. It sticks out on the museum's smooth concrete spirals like a 400-foot theme park waterslide would on the Pyramid of Cheops. This is the kind of brazen arrogance that feeds off itself between comrades like Gehry and Richard Serra, the kind that places their late modernist retro-nostalgia in the same league as the art of the past, of which they know nothing.
Posted by: James Wright at May 14, 2004 9:19:52 PM
Sara Rimer wrote about the building for the New York Times on the same day: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/13/arts/design/13MIT.html She liked it more than me, but I have to say that the photo the Times used online shows one of the reasons why the street in front of the building is not a pleasant place — and making the street a pleasant place to be is the first job of a building.
There's also an interesting quote from Gehry, who says the building "looks like a party of drunken robots got together to celebrate."
And that's a good thing for a building because?
Gehry is a fun architect. He sometimes suffers from a surfeit of making an individual work of art and a shortage of making a public building in the public realm.
This is a building that will be on the street for a hundred years, not a "piece" in a gallery for a week.
Posted by: John Massengale at May 15, 2004 1:16:02 AM
A Daily Dose of Architecture ( http://archidose.blogspot.com/2004_05_01_archidose_archive.html#108421129953977361 ) links to some good photos ( http://web.mit.edu/evolving/stata/photos/photos2.html ). Note the banal office interior.
Why is that different than the simplicity of the famous Building 20, which it replaced? Because it's ugly.
Posted by: John Massengale at May 16, 2004 1:23:23 PM
An extract from my paper "The Derrida Virus", TELOS NUMBER 126, Winter 2003, pages 66-82.
"An architecture that reverses structural algorithms so as to create disorder -- the same algorithms that in an infinitely more detailed application generate living form -- ceases to be architecture. Deconstructivist buildings are the most visible symbols of actual deconstruction. The randomness they embody is the antithesis of nature's organized complexity. This is despite effusive praise in the press for "exciting" new academic buildings, such as the Peter B. Lewis Management Building at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and the Stata Center for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences at MIT, all by Frank Gehry. Housing a scientific department at a university inside the symbol of its nemesis must be the ultimate irony."
Posted by: Nikos Salingaros at May 17, 2004 10:38:05 AM
Posted by: John Massengale at May 17, 2004 7:20:11 PM