TRAVIS WALTERS, News Editor
Architect Frank Gehry, his wife Berta and their son Alejandro visited the Savannah College of Art and Design this past Monday, April 28. He toured and met with students in Eichberg Hall, and gave a lecture at Trustees Theater to a sold out audience. Gehry won the Pritzker Prize in 1989 and the first Gish award in 1994.
Gehry began the lecture by saying that if you follow your own way, you’ll be second to none in that respect, but if you follow someone else, you’ll be second to them. The lecture included a slideshow of Gehry’s buildings, which he talked about briefly. He also talked about the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., which is across the street from a future Gehry-designed complex that he said he never thought he’d be doing. He said that people often ask how he comes up with the forms and shapes of his buildings. He showed the inside of the concert hall and explained that it was essentially a box, with seating inside and the shapes on the outside were meant to play off an adjacent building. “The whole idea was to compress it down so it felt human,” said Gehry.
He explained that new building codes forced buildings to be bigger. “Old arenas felt smaller and more human,” he said, and newer ones feel too large. There were 50 models of the concert hall built, and during the lecture he showed many of the rejected interior designs.
The building across the street, which he is now working on, is part of the Grand Avenue Project. It’s a nearly $3 billion undertaking by the city of Los Angeles to create something comparable to the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Central Park in New York City. Gehry said that the segment of the project that he is working on would incorporate elements of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Mentioning his inspirations, Gehry said that people told him that his building for MIT looked like dancing robots. He said that while he was designing the building he was “intrigued by the shapes of the robots” his son was playing with at the time. While showing slides of his furniture, lamps and sculpture, some of which were modeled after fish, he said his inspiration and subsequent designs did not come from his grandmother and gefilte fish in the bath tub, as was reported.
Gehry has been asked to do many projects in Las Vegas. “I’ve turned them all down. Except this one,” he said, “because I might need the connection.” The project was for the Lou Ruvo Alzheimer’s Institute. He was asked to create something different in a city that’s copied almost everything. Construction began last year and should be completed in 2009.
“And this is the one that got away,” said Gehry, ending the lecture by talking about the New York Times building contest he entered. He found out that his design was most likely to be chosen, but he withdrew. He said that if you feel uncomfortable with a project or relationship with a client, you shouldn’t go there.