An Iowa-based philanthropist and architecture aficionado has offered a $300 million reward to any city anywhere in the world that dares to hire someone other than Frank Gehry to design its gleaming new art museum.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like iconoclastic, swoopy structures that look like bashed-in sardine cans as much as the next guy,” says the philanthropist, who wishes to remain nameless for fear of enraging close friends in the art world. “I like Czech dance halls that look like a 747 plowed right into the façade as much as anybody. I bow to no man in my admiration for an architect who can design an art museum that looks like a intergalactic recycling center. I just thought it would be nice to give the second-most-famous architect in the world a shot at a payday. Whoever he is. I know I’ve got his name here somewhere.”
“There’s a swoopy, somewhat incongruous Frank Gehry building in Millennium Park in Chicago,” says a famous architecture critic who wishes to remain nameless for fear of being perceived as a revolting, disgusting philistine who ought to be hanged, drawn, quartered and then shot, but only after being blinded and flayed alive. “There’s a swoopy Frank Gehry building in L.A. There are swoopy Frank Gehry buildings in New York, Seattle, Cleveland, Toronto, Cambridge, Mass., and Princeton, N.J. That’s not to mention the swoopy Frank Gehry buildings in Basel, Switzerland, Miami Beach, Las Vegas and Bilbao, Spain. Everywhere you go on the planet, whether it’s an art museum, a concert hall, a corporate headquarters or a hospital, there’s a swoopy Gehry building. I’m not saying that the world doesn’t need any more swoopy Gehry buildings that look like dented Miller Lite cans. I’m just saying that maybe the world doesn’t need quite so many.”
The other thing I’ll note about the Gehry-designed Stata Center is that it’s actually a pretty disfunctional building. Even if you’re deranged and think it looks good, it doesn’t work well as a building. Offices lack privacy. Sound baffling is non-existent. Millions of dollars were spent to resolve what were flaws due to design issues (leaks, mold, etc.)–design problems Gehry refused to change.
And it’s fucking swoopy.