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Another Reason To Like Frank Gehry
My love affair with Frank Gehry's work, like the Chiat/Day binoculars building (built in collaboration with Claes Oldenburg Coosje van Bruggen), was part of what inspired me to move to the Venice/Santa Monica area from New York. And then he built Disney Hall -- a building that, to me, seems the embodiment of the Goethe quote, "Architecture is frozen music."

When I read a low-blow, nasty review of the just-opening Disney Hall, I got mad. I wrote Gehry a fan letter telling him how much I loved his buildings, and how influential they were in my decision to move here, and then speculated on the snipers:

...You probably see your detractors for what they are: pissy, pretentious people who have to knock something to feel good about themselves. What, they’d rather have another big brick box instead of that gloriously unbelievable Disney Hall? Please. Thanks -- your work makes So Cal an exciting place to have eyes.

I just wrote to Gehry because I thought he was being wrongly maligned, not thinking I'd hear back from him. To my surprise, I got a letter from Gehry's assistant, thanking me and telling me he wanted me to have two tickets to a preview concert at Disney Hall. I took my musician and producer friend David Was to what turned out to be a very exciting "working concert" where Esa-Pekka Salonen had the orchestra run through through the music they were playing -- I think, for Disney Hall opening night. They mostly just played, but occasionally, they'd do a bit over, and before they did, he'd turn to us in the audience and explain what they were doing, and why. Pretty thrilling to be there. And amazing acoustics. You could hear the person behind you just thinking of unwrapping a piece of gum (a downside to great acoustics).

Getting back to Gehry, it turns out there's yet another surprising item to his credit. When so many businesses see their employees as living robots to grind as much work out of for as little as they can possibly pay (or as nothing as they can possibly pay), Gehry has a different approach. For example, like me, he finds it wrong to have interns. Here are his words on it, from an Akhil Sharma piece in The Wall Street Journal:

Most architects of Mr. Gehry's stature can staff the lower rungs of their office with volunteers and interns. "I am very proud," he says and sits up at the conference table. "Everybody gets paid. Everybody here is paid. There's no freebie interns. I've never done that. A lot of my colleagues do that, but that offends me so I've never done that." Like only one or two other topics in our conversation, this issue of how he cares for the people who work for him is something that seems to get him excited. "I am very proud," he says, again referring to his employees, "that they always get cost of living index raises and bonuses and more."

If you're interested in Gehry and his work, I recommend a terrific film you can buy or rent, Sketches Of Frank Gehry, by Sidney Pollack, a longtime friend of Gehry's. Here's the review from Amazon:

For creating such mega-structures, Gehry is remarkably self-effacing; as he and an associate fiddle with a model with bent rooflines and walls, Gehry chuckles, "That is so stupid-looking, it's great!" Yet make no mistake, he possesses a singular vision and strong ego, which we view not only through the wide variety of his works, but also from interviews with friends, architecture critics, and clients, including artist Ed Ruscha, Hopper, L.A. talent manager Mike Ovitz, architect Philip Johnson, and others. Pollock's intimate conversational film allows us to feel as though we're sitting right there on the couch with them, or in Gehry's "factory" of associates and assistants; in its backstage look at the process of creativity, the film feels a little like TV's Project Runway, in the very best sense. As the viewer gets to know Gehry, one finds oneself wishing for more biographical details to be fleshed out--what was Gehry's childhood really like, for instance, and how does he feel about having changed his birth name, Goldberg, at the request of his first wife? Still, for a peek into the world of one of America's most prolific artists, the film is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal. Extras include more conversations between Pollock and Gehry and further examinations of his creations. --A.T. Hurley

Also at the Amazon link to the film just above is a free clip of a conversation between Bill Maher and Sidney Pollack about the making of the film.

UPDATE: Surreally beautiful shot of Disney Hall by Tim McGarry here.

Posted by aalkon at December 25, 2006 11:31 AM

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