Sunday, March 15, 2015

APPROXIMATE ARCHITECTURAL THEORIES – GEHRY GUESSING


It was in The Measure of the Golden Mean that the issue was first raised: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/the-measure-of-golden-mean.html The subject was how diagrams that illustrate ‘proofs’ of the use of specific proportions in a project or in nature are illustrated with lines overlayed on tiny drawings of a plan or an elevation, or a photograph; coloured stripes that are proportionately extremely thick and indecisive when it comes to understanding precisely what is being delineated other than the chosen proportion itself. It seems that one is being asked to exercise a leap of faith in the circumstance being illustrated. These crude explanatory diagrams usually fail to delineate exactly what particular points are being referred to, those precise locations being used to identify the dimensions that give, for example, the golden mean proportion. Even using the best scientific methods, no one would be able to verify anything with such ad hoc references - preferences. The logic appears to be that merely superimposing the proportion proves the point, if everything looks to be a close enough fit. This uncertain fuzziness makes it appear possible to claim that almost any proportion might be involved in the selected design, shape or detail, as long as there is some ostensible correspondence, a ‘close enough’ fit in the diagram.




In this era of laser scans, photographic surveys and digital analysis, it is possible to be extremely precise with such things, but these illustrations rarely are. They seem happy to demonstrate ‘ballpark’ relationships. Complex historic buildings have been mapped in three dimensions and modelled digitally both externally and internally with lasers to extremely tight tolerances, e.g. Beauvais cathedral: see - http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~atroccol/papers/ACVA_09.pdf  With such potential accuracy available, why do we still accept these rudimentary, crude ‘proofs’ that look almost like ancient, rustic medieval diagrams presented as quaintly stark evidence that is unlikely to establish anything, let alone the very point being made? The whole matter looks carelessly indistinct; but we seem happy to accept these graphic propositions simply because we appear to warm to the idea of some mysterious guiding principle in ancient architecture and nature, like the ‘God’ principle and Gaia: or is this whim merely wishful thinking; perhaps hopeful serendipity?




George L. Hersey, in his book  Architecture and Geometry in the Age of the Baroque,   The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000  has published many diagrams to prove his thesis suggested in the title: that geometry lies at the root of Baroque architectural design. One does not have to delve too deeply into this book to find the first worrying illustration. On page 14 there are two identical main elevations of St. Peters in Rome. A small photograph that has been reproduced twice has been used to illustrate how the proportions of this building, well this portion of it, involve two systems: a double golden section rectangle and a double sesquiquartoquintal rectangle. It becomes obvious that Hersey loves obscure Latin and Greek labels. Later in the book he gives other examples, e.g. the Invalides in Paris.

Hersey's thick lines superimposed on the plan of the Invalides, Paris to illustrate his theory

The somewhat blurred, faded grey photographs of St. Peters are identical, about 85mm long and 30mm high. The coloured lines, blue and red, that have been drawn over this image to illustrate the idea being discussed have a width that is about one quarter of the width of one of the main doorways. At a quick guess, the line might be, if scaled, about 600mm wide. Now this in itself is not really a problem, as we are dealing with proportions. The rectangle formed by the outer edge of this frame, however thick it might be, has the same proportion as that defined by the inner edge. It is what the line is trying to relate to on the photograph that is the critical issue, either inside or out, because this is the significant point being highlighted by Hersey: that the accumulated parts of this building have been planned using specific, related dimensions, in this case, a clever twin set of proportions. The concern is that a 600mm pointer is being used to identify the precise locations of the dimensions to confirm the claim. It is like waving one’s hand at a group of cups to indicate which particular one has the pebble under it, to prove that one knows exactly where the elusive stone might be. The detail is all very rubbery, indistinct.

Hersey's proportional analysis of the facade of St. Peters, Rome

Looking closely at the image, the first thing that one notices is what appears to be the distortion caused by the lens. This is a long elevation – about 50m? – so a wide-angled lens has probably been used to capture this representation. These lenses tend to distort the image. Here it is clear that the cornice line is curved. What else might be askew? Once one accepts this deformity as a simple aberration that does not seem to be too critical to matters proportional, and with the hope that the remainder of the photograph is a reasonably accurate depiction, one looks to see the limits of the building being referred to by the overlay.

There is a lingering question: why have the building parts above the cornice been ignored? Have they simply been cut off because they have no necessary role in the argument, superfluous to it because they do not fit? Was there a balustrade parapet here? One has to ask: why was this building element never a part of any proportional scheme? How is this known? Why have only specific sections of this building been selected as a reference in order to ‘prove’ the use of a certain proportion? Is it a matter of getting the best fit for the theory? No matter how closely one might peer at this diagram, it is impossible to say precisely what it is that has been pointed to as proof of any proportional strategy. It seems that the thick coloured line might be referring to the outer limit of the cornice itself, perhaps its greatest extremity; the ultimate projection of the upper moulding, a point that is a decorative addition to the mass of the building, an embellishment. Is this point in the silhouette really the most important, the most significant place to anchor the ‘magic’ relationship, a concept that seems to suggest that the beauty of this work hangs on this ephemeral mathematical scaffolding?



The idea looks like a best guess. Indeed, when one reads the supporting caption, it talks about things deliberately being ‘approximate’:
Fig. 1.6: St. Peter’s main façade (Carlo Maderno, Rome, 1604-17); above, as an approximate double golden section rectangle (shown in red); and, below, as an approximate double sesquiquartoquintal (in blue). Photograph courtesy of Alinari/Art Resource, New York.
What, is a theory postulating the use of precise proportions really only based on the possibility of a maybe? Are all architectural theories mere guesses, someone’s ideas that are allowed so much tolerance as to be able to be applied where anyone might believe appropriate, if it looks like a close match or a useful caprice, just to illustrate the cause being argued or to justify an envisaged outcome? This looks like matters are randomly arbitrary, ad hoc.  Little wonder that others involved in more precise, rigorous fields of endeavour involving critical matters linked to the demands of necessity, consider architects as merely frivolous dilettantes, academically indulgent, flippant fools, impracticably fanciful. Einstein spoke of Sigfried Giedion’s Space, Time and Architecture thesis as a load of ‘space-time’ rubbish, all while architects were drooling over this masterpiece that established the mindset for things architectural and their associated theories for many years. Just imagine an immunologist working with and accepting such broadly brushed, approximate theories developed on near-enough matches in DNA. Today’s news, 13 November 2014, announced that, as part of the Rossetta Mission, the Philae lander had completed a soft touchdown on comet 67P/C-G. Could engineers have landed the craft onto the four kilometre wide comet after a ten-year journey using only best guesses, approximations? Little wonder that architects start to look like jokes, self-important buffoons.
So what should architects do? One might start by saying that architects need to begin thinking like engineers, so that matters can be given a real basis in logic, understanding and strategy to become a response in form to fact and function. It is interesting to note that Frank Lloyd Wright and Sinan both started their careers as engineers. Wright has said that he considered Sinan to be the best architect of all time. Are we today seeing only more and more ‘approximate’ theories, with transient and hopeful ‘maybes’ being used to make and shape our buildings and places? It seems that the best guess, or, as judges say, one’s ‘preferred position,’ is being used and accepted as though it was a rational way to fashion our world, our environment, our home. Has architecture become mere entertainment for the masses, popular theatre?



It is a stance that seems to be promoted by the media-driven hype that enjoys quirkiness, promoting its popularity and fashion rather than offering any informed critique. Here the core importance is to catch people’s attention, to sell publications and attract increased viewing numbers. Think of Gehry and crumpled paper as mocked by The Simpsons, (apparently any publicity is good publicity - maybe the stranger, the better!); and of Hadid on digital distortion, just to start with. Romantically indulgent, self-important storylines that accompany these strategies become the ‘theoretical’ basis for younger architects keen to progress and impress in their profession. These fairy-tale ‘narratives’ that describe the ‘journey,’ as the jargon goes, are grabbed by novices in portions of ideas, as pieces and parts with no necessary relevance or interconnection, or any in-depth comprehension. These schizophrenic perceptions and understandings are ‘grown’ into other different things ‘new and exciting’ to join the perpetual competition for hype and media attention. This guessed, approximate world stimulates other ‘theories’ that inspire new adherents to push positions that only develop more and differently, like a tumour, into immediate eye-catching outcomes that have no relevance other than for use in immediate prestige, publicity and recognition in awards. This measure of success is the outcome itself. Its quantity and distinctiveness, the number of ‘likes’ and its ability to be noticed, generate and define its perceived quality that is enhanced by the name, the provenance, or creates a new mythical hero for hagiographical praises and repetitive press coverage. If noticed, as tumours eventually are, these works are acclaimed; and so the momentum grows. We are ‘there’ now: but where is this? Does anyone know? Does anyone care? What is the theoretical basis of architecture today?




If we are to root ourselves in a real world where substance, fact, rigour and reality could become our basic ground for operation, where would this lead? At least we might be able to know about this place with some degree of certainty rather than floating vaguely and shyly, fearful of asking what a building might mean or why it is so praised. One is not allowed to question any genius or perversion. Today, ME and ME scream out for attention and gain it through others seeking to do likewise in their endeavours: publication, media, etc. Over the last century there seems to have been a progression in theory from simple basics to the most exotic and ephemeral of ideas that appear to operate on the doubtful basis of: as the meaning of soul and beauty cannot be defined, any inexplicable, ill-defined sketch, whim, or arbitrary form randomly assembled or otherwise ad hoc must be a meaningful, or potentially meaningful, expression of soul and beauty. Since the concept cannot be disproved, it must be true. There seems to be a lack of principle here, a gaping hole in matters apparently logical.


The City of Tomorrow

In his early work, le Corbusier strove to provide a healthy environment for people: light, fresh air, sanitation. The squalid Victorian tenement was the stimulus for this reforming zeal. Corbusier’s first book, now almost forgotten, The City of Tomorrow and its Planning, John Rodker, London, 1929, (first translated in English from the 8th French edition of Urbanisme), included an analysis of these living environments. It spelt out a vision on how architecture might improve living conditions for ‘everyman.’ Functions were studied and these results became the rational inspirational beginnings of forming. Ergonomics shaped furniture; efficiency in tine and movement studies shaped kitchens, workplaces. The proportions of the human body and its essential requirements were analysed in detail. This strategy developed new forms and arrangements. Ideas grew from this confidence into more public concerns – place: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/understanding-place-kobane.html  From here it became obvious that other things were involved, that we ‘read’ our spaces, forms and places in our experience of them. Semiology became an interest that then began to be used as a basis for design. Here matters moved into what became known as the post-modern era that opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities, as mind, memory, reference and symbol intertwined with an awareness of the human condition and became a part of what architects did: a stimulus to help create transparent vibrancy in place and its experience. The approach was enriched with understandings of traditional architecture from other eras, other responses to our cosmos and our being.


Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye



This is the background for today’s architecture where our new technologies have now taken our attention. Personal experience and proper fit appear to be incidental, well beyond the core singular ‘WOW! factor’ response: the shock and awe that technology can deliver in many diverse and invasive ways attracts and distracts. We spend much effort in guessing how our slick gadgets might otherwise and alternately engage us, extend us, and be used by us both generally, and in architecture and in building construction too, both now and in the future that will always be better. Digital design; robots; anything that one might think of as a possibility, a ‘perhaps’ or a ‘maybe,’ becomes a basis for research, for theory today that has endless optimism for incredible, different, improved futures.



We seem to have taken enormous steps away from understanding and caring for the human condition and ordinary, everyday experience. Today’s studies and interests might be very intriguing and emotionally attractive, but architects need to ask what their work is doing, and why they are doing it: is this work supporting, enriching our basic lives? What needs to be done to achieve this? What does this mean? What has happened to Corbusier’s concerns for the simple elements of health and well-being that today needs to include mental health as well as physical well-being? What has happened to the desire to accommodate the body comfortably and efficiently: the human spirit? Where is contentment in our architectural ideas, in our lives? If we neglect these things we will end up in the ‘Victorian’ era again, where people are left scrambling for a living in the most awkward of mean areas and distorted spaces, disorientated places all designed to the crumpled, distorted digital, whiz-bang ideals of the new masters, the ‘Dr. Who’s of architecture. It is a challenge that we need to spend time reflecting on for we live in a sad time of growing depths of depression and serial suicide. Grand, smart displays in architecture have little impact in overcoming these intimate problems: they appear to alienate - (see WAR & PEACE below).


How is meaning embodied in architecture? What is meaning? If architecture is to remove itself from the ordinary world, then it simply becomes an exotic, extraordinary, expensive indulgence instead of an essential support for life and the human spirit. One cannot pretend that the human spirit alone might be designed for without knowing with intimate precision that every specific detail has been shaped for the body’s benefit – its comfort and experience, for a life without distortion or display, engaged with forms without pretentious deformations, complete with an ‘inner necessity,’ as Kandinsky named it, shaping things familiar to us in a new manner, with depth, integrity and coherence that can enfold being, encompass it.


Painting by Wassily Kandinsky

Architecture can be seen as the interface between the body and soul, and the world/nature in its broadest scope. Both the fact of the body and the delight of the soul, the spirit, need to be accommodated. Spending all the time trying to create something intellectually spirited that might be promoted as support for a soaring, elitist soul, an ephemeral, dreamlike, dazed spirit, while the body might be suffering is just not tenable. There is an integral and necessary correspondence between the two. Things esoterically cerebral and scholarly are not necessarily embodied in things fancy, flighty and transient, even though the two aspects might be described and experienced similarly. Unchallenged and untested random inspiration, no matter how nice it might feel or sound as a basis for making, does not have to be anything other than an indulgent extravagance that makes sense only to the individual who envisages the self as a genius, or genius-like, whose nonchalant actions can be promoted as embodying universal spirit as a matter of course, as an architectural guru. Here one is never able to say that this is not so, that such has never occurred, leaving the charlatan with all of the authority and power to make unchallenged declarations and autocratic assertions, while belittling all those who doubt.




Playing vague or approximate games with architectural theories will only lead us astray into a world that cares only for the amorphous intrigue of architectural ideologies as games. What is architecture if it has no real outcome other than an approximation of itself arising from an approximation of a vague idea? We need far more commitment and cohesion in our thinking and our outcomes than is revealed in forms and places that might happily hype the media. Jumping onto bandwagons of popularity and extreme difference, (see P.S. below), might be interesting for a couple of seconds, but architecture and life have a broader timescale than this, and that of any personal whim too. If we are to work with ideas, we need to know how to turn these into facts so that they can once again dance in the world of ideas with beauty and wonder that is rooted firmly in reality, not flopping in an ‘interesting,’ vaguely amorphous flexing of flummery. It is too easy to create fantasy forms that promote whimsical visions held in frenetic structures as an approximate dream-like world of maybe, anyhow. Life will only thrive on facts; ironically, only then can fantasies be real: (see Klee's comment on fantasy and facts below). Madness grabs fantasies in order to exist. Make-believe will always remain make-believe and worse if there is no ground for its being, no substance. This is our challenge. We need to become far more questioning of things ad hoc and random rather than cringe uncritically with an inferiority complex when a ‘guru’ gestures.


Forms have their own integral rigour, their necessity, as plants do, even if unknown. Shakespeare spoke of ‘the forms of things unknown’; Herbert Read used this as a title for a book on art. We discover the rigour of forms if we place a plant that likes a cool, shady, moist, alkaline environment in the harsh, full sun of a dry acid location, when it dies. There is an inevitability that needs to be accommodated in mystery if it is to hold substance. Forms are likewise; as are design resolutions and structures too. There is an integral wholeness, an integrity that needs to be sought out for things to be what they want to be, as Kahn said. Forcing outcomes kills spirit, if not the media interest that will always try to tell us what and how to see: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/seeing-what-we-believe-idyllic-visions.html   when a quick glimpse will reveal everything clearly as it is, perhaps messy and awkward in spite of the hype. Tension is established: does one join the bandwagon and admire the promoted, popular image, or does one cry out about the inconsistencies, the ad hoc framework of a purported mystery made by ‘genius’? It is hard to achieve the latter when there is so much momentum in our digital existence pushing the primary, approximate illusion that struggles hard to hold the hope of wonder. Sadly even such critical outbursts, if they are listened to, are treated as entertainment – headlines.




One could call it ‘Gehry Guessing’ if a name for modern architectural theory is needed: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/architecture-as-tweets-twitter-period.html  Frank O. Gehry proudly, unabashedly, displays his inspirational scribbles as the work of a genius, a seer. Astonishingly he promotes himself and his sketches with the idea that they only make sense once the building has been completed, as if the spirit itself has moved across the paper in the whole process of design and construction to mysteriously complete itself. But he is modest: he never revisits his buildings, and never photographs them. He does admit to reading reviews on them, but perhaps dismisses the negative or questioning critiques as trash? One might comment that Mr. Gehry might learn something about his works if he did return to them to see how they are being used, rather than merely hiding away with appraisals and reviews, maybe hoping to read about his genius. The determined neglect looks like a confirmation of indulgent genius that concentrates on him and his present alone: his new idea being shaped for further amazement. It is interesting that visitors to his office have to sign a confidentiality agreement in case they get a glimpse of the next surprising building before the planned media blitz.




It is difficult to write about Gehry as such critiques readily fall into the field of the disenchanted; the envious; the unskilled fool; etc. One must never be negative about work that is loved by the mass media or that is ‘so successful.’ This evaluation usually takes the form of noting how tourism has made a fortune for Bilbao, recouping the enormous outlay for the Guggenheim Museum in a matter of only a few years. Tourism is a concern: see - http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/who-or-what-is-tourist.html  Yet ‘masters’ should never be free from review. Consider Corbusier: his monastery at La Tourette is a fabricated image, shaped to achieve an identity rather than being the form of function that it is assumed to be, that his writings try to make it : see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/corbusier-renaissance-man.html  Gehry’s works are likewise, but are far more extreme. Take for instance his Bilbao Guggenheim. The Ovation DVD set titled Architecture - a must-see for all - points out that the top one third of this building mass could be removed and there would be no difference to the functions of its interiors. The Paris Opera House by Charles Garnier is a totally different proposition even though it appears far more random, decorative and irresponsibly frivolous. It was only on the viewing of this DVD that it became obvious why this building held such importance in the history of architecture. Bannister Fletcher did nothing to explain the unique rigour of this design. One used to believe that it had something to do with its exuberant decoration; but no, it is all about functions, forms and expression. It is an astonishing delight that leaves a Gehry work flopping in the doldrums of the display of a careless selfishness that has no time for the tests of rigour that hide discarded behind matters trying to be ‘poetic.’ ‘I am different’ seems to be the call, only because ‘I am,’ and will always be, different!


Section through the Paris Opera House by Charles Garnier


Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, the UTS Business School, Sydney


Gehry speaks of his latest building in Sydney, Australia, the Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, the UTS Business School completed in 2014, as being inspired by the rich folds in fabrics seen in paintings of old, forms that have been lovingly depicted, he explains, as a base for the portrait, the face. What has this to do with any business school other than create an exotic image, a trade mark, for the promotional brochure designed to attract student numbers? Educational institutions like increasing numbers; numbers are good. One might say that Gehry ‘did a number’ on the school. But why use this idea as the form for any building? Is it all really just a search for the most surprisingly dramatically different outcome possible?




Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum, Paris

Much is said about Gehry’s random ME architecture. : e.g. see –
The Simpsons have joined in too. Now the Louis Vitton museum in Paris is said to be his best and he is lauded as being the greatest living architect in the world. So who is out of step here? The museum is said to be a poetic vision, leaves of floating glass that some see as sails: but unlike these glazed forms, sails have a necessity about them, an inner and outer rigour layered behind their swelling, powerfully billowing expression. Their form is never random or unplanned. The LV building is fabricated to suit the image, thr scribble, the expression shaped with whatever it takes to achieve this ‘?’ at a cost of 243 million euros. The planners were apparently reluctant but eventually relented. Strangely it was considered that a glass building would have less of an impact on the parkland precinct than a 'solid' building. Do folk ever learn? The pyramid at the Louvre should have told everyone that glass can be more 'solid' than concrete, more lively and distracting with its reflections. Is it only the cliché idea that glass is transparent that allows such assessments as these?

Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum, Paris

Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon


One could liken another iconic building to these reflective shells of glass – the Sydney Opera House. Those familiar with this building and its history will know of its unique rigour: how Jørn Utzon and Ove Arup struggled to develop a structural strategy that would achieve the vision that was presented as a bold charcoal sketch, not unlike a Gehry but more resolved as an image. Utzon finally discovered the concept after a long struggle to seek out its best sense – to make all of the shells from the same spherical geometry. The memorable image is the orange sliced into portions that can be assembled to give the layered shell form, sail form, of the building. Everything in these ‘free-form’ shells would be built from the same spherical surface, giving them an inner logic and coherence. Unlike Eero Saarinen in his TWA Terminal at JFK Airport, New York that has a concrete shell form that was a design formed by Saarinen, who chose the Utzon scheme, reportedly from the pile of rejects, Utzon laboured to achieve the integrity of the shaping and making of the Sydney shells, and modified them into their wonderful accumulation that we see today. Gehry does not choose to suffer this test, nor does he ever appear to be interested in such a challenge. He builds whatever his sketches come to be as a building, whatever this might be. The challenge is how to hold these forms up; how to stop them leaking, although he apparently once complained about the folk worrying about the leaks in his Walt Disney Concert Hall, reportedly noting that one should expect this from such a complex building. Structure, it seems, is made however, whatever, wherever to achieve the prescribed outcome; no doubt sealing the forms is achieved in much the same manner. One is reminded of the Paris Hadid building that was sealed with huge globs of sealant bulked up over the membrane roofing and the slick fibre glass shells - out of sight of course!: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/hadids-art.html







Budgets are apparently the only aspect of the project that Gehry works to, or so he reports. One supposes that these are set unusually high to accommodate all unknowns as there have to be many. So while the image might be said to be 'poetic,' the detail seems to be a chaotic resolution, or otherwise quite complex, whatever it takes, concealed behind the gleaming illusion that becomes the public identity in the photograph. This is doll architecture: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/all-dolled-up.html    where the outer skin is the grand illusion and transforms the reality concealed behind it. The only relationship between the inner and outer is the raw necessity of the two being together in a forced fit.







The discovery of the meaning of the sketch after the event along with the casual approach to coherence and inter-relationships flies in the face of understanding structures and functions and forms in nature, be this a leaf; a rose; or the body. What would happen if life was based on Gehry guessing? There is an integral necessity in life where every part performs its purpose, and relates and interrelates beautifully. There is a good fit here. It is this lack of any good fit in Gehry’s work that is a worry. Gehry seems to push and force, to promote the idea that anything is satisfactory anyhow in order to achieve the prescribed envisaged outcome, mysteriously. Beauty is forecast into being from the ‘inspirational’ sketched guess. The making is an amorphous seeing, trying to create a match with the guesses by building these. The technology of building never seems to be used to inform the form. Rather technology is used to assist in the complex making of the guessed form whatever this might be, however it has to be formed to comply. If flowers were made like this, the world would be chaotic, random, anything, all rooted in someone’s preconception. Beauty has more rigour than this; greater integrity. While LV touches what we label,  cliché-like, as the visually poetic, its hard reality shatters this light vision with the contrasting crudity that structural demands have forced upon it. Having visions of sails and glass is one thing. Giving these their functional and factual integrity to still create magic should be the ambition. Just using all the available technologies to make anything possible, simply looks lazy, limited; it is giving up. It is a frivolous attitude to beauty that really demands effort, a struggle, for its ease and delight to flow free. There was rigour in traditional art. Precise rules were established in order to achieve the beauty and serenity revealed in any image of Buddha. Gehry’s world is theatrical; it is in theatre that one constantly sees the tricks of imagery, the facades with nothing but trash and sticks making them: ad hoc parts behind the illusion. It is now becoming the norm.





The traditional world is interesting when it comes to beauty. The idea was that something could not be beautiful unless it conforms to the common concept, the symbolism, and is truly functional. With Gehry this concept means that unless the form and the structure have been resolved as an integral whole – that they ‘work’ together hand in glove – rather than being craftily grafted to fit, the vision is a likely conceit: MY vision - see:
http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/new-gehry-projects-in-aleppo.html 
One has to ask: what does Gehry do for the human condition? He seems to act only for the ‘Gehry condition’ - ME and my unique visions. This is hardly foresight. It is simply guessing, seemingly hoping that the Gehry name, his reputation, will be enough, great enough, to silence any critique; to establish a wall of silence that can be assumed to be that of stunned amazement at the wonder rather than one of looming threat. Fashion and promotion cannot be wrong; that seems to be the assumption, and once in fashion, more and more of the variety and extremes are demanded, expected – as in the LV Gehry bag that is a distorted box. It is simply just too easy to distort for the sake, the fake of difference and gloat that others will be jealous of this manipulation. Architecture is much more than this, but our era delights in selfies and instant commentaries where everyone can be an indulgent commentator and an instant expert on everything, on anything: see -http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/architecture-as-tweets-twitter-period.html


Louis Vuitton Bag designed by Frank Gehry


The conceit is considering deformation as art when it might stimulate despair and sadness when seen as damage

I predict that it will not be until we get back to an architecture that has rigour and is based on the best outcome for man and his contentment that we will be ‘home’ again: (see Paul Klee's diary on Tunis in NOTE in http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/architecture-as-tweets-twitter-period.html). Sullivan predicted that it would take a generation, perhaps more, for decoration to once more regain its significance in architecture. Perhaps the two predictions might have some connection? What might meaningful decoration hold for us and our being? Dramatic theatrical performances are just too easy. It is in grappling with an integral, coherent and meaningful depth that architecture sings the tune of life, and avoids becoming the medium for entertainment, name-dropping and profit. Marshall McHulan spoke of messages and meanings. Where might we be in his vision of things? The global village is here, but where might meaning lie in this message? It will not lie in Gehry guessing or claiming that matters might be too trivial or insignificant to be considered seriously because they do not ‘fit.’ Every detail must be considered and respected. The facts must be considered unemotionally, without prejudice or preconception. We cannot accept the broad, loose generalities that Hersey accepts in his proportional analysis: as if this might be necessarily so, or should be. Rigour is essential: see -http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/george-l-herseys-hopeful-fashioning-of.html





I wonder when a researcher will discover that Gehry has used the golden section or the sesquiquartoquintal proportion in his work? All one will have to do it to reproduce an elevation at a tiny scale and draw a very thick line around it. Surely, by the laws of chance, something will align! If one is lucky, there will be multiple correspondences. Such studies will prove to be just as random as Gehry’s approach to things, where guesses become the approximate factual basis for fabricating forms and formulating functions. We need better than this indulgent sloppiness that is promoted as the work of an inspired genius, so great that one is unable to suggest that there is a problem here: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/swell-sculpture-festival-2013.html


Interior of UTS Building

NOTE:
WAR & PEACE
There is an interesting point to ponder in Boris Friedewald's  Paul Klee Life and Work Prestel Verlag, Munich, 2011: 
p.87
Writing in his diary, he (Paul Klee) observes: “The more horror-filled the world (as it is today), the more abstract is art, whereas a happy world brings forth art that is of this world.”



Is the chaotic outcome of our architecture today a result of our 'horror-filled' world that has suffered with wars, one after the other for over a century, knowing little of peace and tranquility? Is this why things remain so frenetic? What might an architecture of peace and happiness be? Are we rooted in squirmings of discontent, indulging ourselves with every extreme distraction that can be envisaged?





Although involved in matters esoteric, Klee made his understanding of the relationship between fact and fantasy, random guesses, very clear:
p.92-93
At the time, Klee was not alone in his metaphysical worldview, which would leave a fundamental mark on his postwar years. Especially as a result of the chaos and horror of the wartime and postwar years, many Expressionist artists saw a metaphysical view of the world as a viable alternative.

Some years later, Klee described the place or position in which he saw himself as an artist to his Bauhaus colleague Lothar Schreyer (1886-1966): “I say it often, but sometimes it is not taken seriously enough: worlds have opened to us and are opening to us that are also a part of nature, but not everyone peers into them . . . I mean, for instance, the realm of the unborn and the dead, the realm of that what may come, would like to come, but need not come – an intermediate world. I call it an intermediate world, for I sense that it exists between the worlds that are externally perceivable by our senses, and I can absorb it internally in such a manner that I can project it outwards in the form of analogies. It is a place that children, madmen, and primitives are still or again capable of peering into. And what they see and shape is the most precious affirmation for me. For we all see the same thing, though from different sides. It is the same in whole and in detail, across the entire planet, not fantasy, but fact upon fact.”



Paintings by Paul Klee

P.S. 
22 March 2015
On the significance of things different, outrageous, quirky and attention-grabbing in our society, consider one of the latest crazes - Extreme Ironing. This appears to have taken over from Planking.
Maybe Mr. Gehry has taken up Extreme Ironing as a performance art?
If one agrees that this might not be an art form, then one has to ask about Frank O. Gehry's work too.


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