Friday, March 07, 2008

Architecture as Life

In my recent post, I discussed advancing design in various areas. I thought about Frank Gehry, who has done some of the more iconic work of the 20th century, such as the Bilbao Guggenheim. I then came upon an article at the Project for Public Spaces discussing how the Bilbao museum is a piece of shit. Not artistically, mind you. The author avoids discussion of that to focus on the practical problems of such a strange building and how it has actually damaged Bilbao as much as it helped it.

I agree with the primary assertion that the building sits not to be integrated, but to literally stand out. Obviously, that was the purpose, to stand out and put Bilbao on the international map, but the building stands out in an unfriendly and impractical way. It does not accommodate life, it accommodates itself, and that's it. It has no interest in being part of anything. It is an icon that stands on its own. It has no forums, no public spaces, no areas where people can gather. You go there to marvel and then move the fuck on because there is nothing else to do.

This reminds me of an article about Frank Gehry's supposed arrogance, and how that shows through in a building that is built under the assumption that people should be grateful to have the building, to look upon it, and nothing else. I frequently deride avant garde films because they are tragically self important and tearfully unentertaining. A movie is entertainment. If it is not entertainment, then it is a very long, moving painting. Art is fine, but do not create art under the guise of making a movie, because if you call it a movie, it damn well better be entertaining. Spielberg recognizes this and makes great films that are also great to watch. The self-important wannabe film makers than call him a sellout. I scoff in their face. There's a damn good reason he's rich and you're a loser. Do I sound venomous enough?

Architecture is the same thing. A building must be a building first and art second, or it sucks. I'm sorry. If it's not a building, it's a HUGE fuck-off sculpture that a few people can sort of stand in. Not a building not a building not a building. Any great architectural achievement must, by virtue of being great, be integrated with, be absorbed with, and augment the surrounding area.

Granted, any arrogance on Gehry's part would pale in comparison to Frank Lloyd Wrights supposed arrogance. And Wright was also guilty of architecture as art when he butted heads with an engineer/contractor over some trusses at Falling Water. The engineer said part of the house would collapse unless it was reinforced, Wright disagreed. The Engineer went behind Wright's back and reinforced the building, and today if he hadn't, that section of the house would have likely collapsed. When you're not an engineer, listen to one when he speaks. Jackass.

No comments: