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.
[Australian Pavilion image via Dezeen]
- Designed by Davide Marchetti Architetto, the Australian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale is something between Daniel Libeskind’s new Contemporary Jewish Museum and Lacaton Vassal’s proposal for The Architecture Foundation in London. Needless to say, I like it. [Dezeen]
- On Frank Gehry’s Serpentine Pavilion: “…it feels like a giant model – as though through some freakish accident we’ve been shrunk to the size of 1:100 plastic people. The timber posts and beams seemingly lock into each like a giant replica of modelshop balsa handiwork. The way one stick joins to another has been blown up into a gargantuan simulated detail. The model-replica sensation makes me look up, almost expecting to see a giant globule of UHU frozen mid drip above my head. If anything, here it’s all been too well resolved. You can feel the hand of an executive architect faithfully reproducing the models intent, but somehow missing its point… [Strangeharvest]
- Just in time for the Olympics, The New York Times graphics department have outdone themselves with some interactive maps of Beijing. [New York Times]
- The X-Men move from upstate New York to San Francisco, setting up shop beneath the bunkers of the Marin Headlands. Apparently our status as a Sanctuary City extends to mutants as well. Highlights from Uncanny X-Men #500 include Cyclops broadcasting a psychic message to all the mutants of the world from the top of the Transamerica Pyramid and Magneto attacking SFMOMA with a trio of giant Sentinel robots. I’m guessing Mario Botta never saw that one coming. [SF Gate]
- Fluid migration, flood management, and Chertoff as a self-made Moses. “I just find it totally bizarre, symbolic, and possibly a foreshadowing scenario as borders, security, hydrology, and migration have, literally and metaphorically, fallen into the same state of disaster together here.” [Subtopia]
- Trend Watch: Building columns that blossom into undulating roof structure — or inversely, roofs that melt into building columns. Coming to a 2nd year studio near you. [A Daily Dose]
“…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.
- …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.
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:
- playfully stacked
- “the mouse that roared”
and then there’s this:
You get the idea, right?
In the man’s own words, “Gehry, you’ve done it again!”