Saturday, November 22, 2014

From Gehry exhibition in Paris: what Atlantic Yards might have been (and with tower, not plaza)

A reader visiting Paris sent me the photo below, a model of Atlantic Yards that's part of the Frank Gehry retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. (It's from the 2008 iteration of the arena block, though, interestingly enough, the blue titanium wrapping the arena is less wavy and thus far less flamboyant than in the renderings.)

It's astounding, of course, to recognize the difference between the original (and approved) project plans, with an enormous tower at the tip of the project site, and the version as currently built, with a plaza providing the "high-low" city.

According to a listing, from the website of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, ParisInfo:
Frank Gehry, the exhibition runs from 10/8/14 to 1/5/15:
Architectural genius.This exhibition is an exceptional event, as this is the first time the Pompidou Centre has organised a retrospective of the work of Frank Gehry, one of the great figures of contemporary architecture. His visual and architectural language has evolved considerably during his career, making him one of the major figures of the twentieth century. As he set up his office in Los Angeles in the early 60s, his first projects were primarily based on a process of architectural reduction. He gradually used simpler materials to create, thus returning to design history.
Another summary

From the Pompidou Centre page, an interview with Gehry leads off with this summary of his work:
The lines of force in the career of one of the key figures of contemporary architecture.
The name of Frank Gehry in itself embodies the image of contemporary architecture. Globally recognised for projects that have now made him an icon, his work has revolutionised the aesthetics of architecture, and its social and cultural role within the city. Gehry began to work on his approach in Los Angeles. In the Sixties, he mixed with the Californian art scene and became close to several artists, including Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Bell and Ron Davis. His encounter with the works of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns opened the way to a reconfiguration of his architectural style, and notably began to introduce the use of poor materials such as cardboard, sheet metal and industrial wire netting. The extension of his own house in Santa Monica was a real manifesto for this new approach. From then on, all Gehry's projects questioned his own means of expression. This position as a bridge between art and architecture led him to write the most recent history of Los Angeles – now a legendary work. At a time when post-modernism was all-conquering, Gehry, on the contrary, avoided it. He talked about this in a celebrated dialogue with the film director Sydney Pollack, who made a biographical film on him in 2005. Gehry's work – both his architecture and the urban vision it conveys – is informed by two preoccupations: how to humanise architecture, and how to find a second wind after the first industrial crisis. For Gehry, who is both an architect and a great urban planner, shows us the city through his buildings. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, one of the most speaking examples, was built as an emblem of architecture's ability to reenergise the economic fabric of the territory. The Centre Pompidou retrospective provides an overall interpretation of his work for the first time in Europe through more than 60 models and nearly 220 original drawings. In a chronological circuit divided into themes, it retraces the lines of force in the career of one of the key figures in contemporary architecture in the second half of the 20th century.
More from the interview

The text of the interview offers a massaged version of Gehry's words, rather than a verbatim transcript from the video:

A couple of excerpts, which are based on my observation/transcription of the video.

At about 2:25, Gehry explained his enduring sense of insecurity and work ethic: "[We were a] very poor family, so no chance for any kind of luxurious surroundings, it was always small rooms, shared with more people--with my sister and my father and mother. And hard working hours. So, I think a kind of a work ethic that you're instilled with, not feeling entitled, ever. Even now, here, I don't feel entitled, I don't, it's built into my psyche."

At 17:15, he said, "I think I could be great in China, because they have such bad craftsmanship."

The latter was completely absent from the provided transcript.

He was not asked about Atlantic Yards. Too complicated? Or taboo? Note that, according to one press report, there's nothing about the Atlantic Yards controversy in the show.

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