New York by Gehry: A Review In Which Your Architecture Critic’s Personal Issues May Be Interfering With His Job

New York by Gehry

The following post was originally written as an entry to McSweeney’s 2011 Column Contest. It didn’t win. But I had a lot of fun writing it so I thought I’d post it here. As proposed, it was an architectural criticism column written from the perspective of a somewhat emotionally dysfunctional critic who sees his own failures in the monumental structures that obsess him. In the resulting reviews, personal narratives converge with professional critique. Descriptions and opinions of the buildings emerge through seemingly inadvertent revelations of his personal crises and social conflicts. Over the course of the columns, a larger narrative is revealed in which the reader learns more about the critic – his failures, fears, aspirations, and his romantic and professional pursuits. In this introductory column, your critic experiences the five stages of grief –denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance– in his critique of the Lower Manhattan skyscraper New York by Gehry.

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[Australian Pavilion image via Dezeen]

“It’s Like a Group Grope,”

“…People choose one building by me, one by Norman Foster, one by Zaha, one by Jean Nouvel, one by Daniel Libeskind. It becomes a cabinet of horrors.” So sayeth global architecture overlord and Simpsons character, Frank Gehry, describing the architectural orgy that is Abu Dhabi in a conversation with Hugh Pearman. If that statement sounds familiar, its likely because OMAer, Reinier de Graaf, recently used similar, if less…visceral, language in describing Dubai. Of course, these sentiments don’t stop either architect from building in the future folly-filled megalopoli. For an entertaining read, more nuggets of wisdom from Gehry, and a peak at his forthcoming Serpentine Pavilion, check out the full interview.

“This is so stupid looking, it’s great!”

It’s documentary fest hear in San Francisco, and the Bay Guardian reviews Sketches of Frank Gehry.

    …despite all the grotesque, garish fun houses of titanium and glass, his work also radiates a peculiar warmth and friendliness. Unlike, say, Freedom Tower overlord Daniel Libeskind, whose attempts at sentiment come off about as soft and subtle as the rigid rectangles of his horn-rim glasses, Gehry can be intimidating in scope yet warm and fuzzy in feeling. His shiny, undulating surfaces at times seem downright … feminine.

To summarize for you, while the author waxes glowingly on Gehry himself, he finds the film much less inspiring. Perhaps due to the lack of any emotional threads or storytelling mechanisms – techniques that made My Architect such an incredible documentary.

…and a cameo by “the man with glasses” never hurts, either.

What, You Don’t See it?

At left, Frank’s sketch for the Ruzo Alzhemier Institute in Las Vegas. At right, the more um…embellished portion of the building. For something a little different, here’s a list of words used to describe the recently unveiled design:

  • topsy-turvy
  • playfully stacked
  • tumble
  • “the mouse that roared”

and then there’s this:

  • cradling
  • comforting

You get the idea, right?

In the man’s own words, “Gehry, you’ve done it again!”