the architect is far from finished
The Fondation Louis Vuitton. Jacques Brinon/AP
Frank Gehry was in Paris, and he was holding court. He’d just finished a day of press to unveil his new museum, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, and he was in a celebratory mood. As we sat in the caf of a luxury hotel off the Champs Elyses, friends and admirers and Pharrell Williams lingered to shake hands and congratulate him on the building, which is opening to critical praise and warm words from the French establishment. “You’ve got a real winner there,” said an old friend.
Is he really so unsure? At 85, he is unquestionably the leading architect in the world, and the new museum is being hailed by its billionaire patron as a “masterpiece.” And yet. “I’m so fucking insecure,” Gehry told me. “Still. I call it a healthy insecurity; it keeps me going.”
This is a familiar tension for the man who was born Ephraim Owen Goldberg in Toronto, high quality replica handbags china grew up poor and only began chasing his creative ideals in middle age. In the 17 years since his Guggenheim Museum Bilbao put a radical twist on contemporary architecture and made him improbably famous he has mellowed very little.
The character of his work has changed, however. His designs once tended toward industrial materials and raw edges; the Vuitton museum is a late career work that shows Parisian decorum. It brings many of Gehry’s ideas replica louis vuitton bags together into a composition that is challenging but also, without a doubt, beautiful. It is also controversial. The 126,000 square foot building is a private museum and auditorium that sits improbably on public ground, the Bois de Boulogne in western Paris. It was commissioned by Bernard Arnault, the head of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, largely to show the company’s and his own considerable art collections.
The building speaks directly to the tradition of glass pavilions, including the Grand Palais in central Paris; yet getting it approved was a long and contentious process, ultimately requiring a push from France’s National Assembly.
The Fondation building, whose gestation began over a decade ago, feels a bit like a time capsule from the Age of the Starchitect. Beginning in the late nineties, many institutions chased after Gehry like museums that, they hope, will replicate “the Bilbao effect” and transform their cities. Many of those pursuits failed institutionally and aesthetically, and over the past half decade many architects have aspired to more socially engaged work. Gehry’s success helped elevate architecture to a prominent place in the culture and created a school of star designers whose work most often serves the whims and the interests of wealthy patrons.
Gehry’s Paris museum does just that, but on those terms it is a spectacular success. Arnault was inspired by the example of Bilbao, and his museum, richly funded and well situated, is a replica louis vuitton showpiece that also makes a strong argument for Gehry’s continuing creative power.
You first see it as a glassy, slightly indeterminate form among the trees. This is the museum’s wrapper, a set of curvaceous glass forms that Gehry likens to a set of sails. The glass faades are a fairly new choice for Gehry; he used one to remarkable effect at the IAC headquarters in New York, and he is testing glass systems for the towers of the massive Mirvish Gehry condo project in Toronto.
Like the titanium outer layers that sheathe the Bilbao museum and Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Vuitton’s envelope surrounds and partially obscures the structure within.
But it also produces contradictions. Gehry’s designs have often been labelled as “object buildings,” but this one’s edges are indistinct. Where does the building end? Fake Louis Vuitton Replica Bags As you linger on one of its rooftop terraces, sheltered by the sails but looking out over replica louis vuitton bags from china the city, are you within the building or outside it? Here you can touch the smooth outer walls of the museum building, made from custom panels of fibre reinforced concrete, and also see the heavy structure that supports the great sails. Up close, the sails feel more like infrastructure: They sit on massive frames, and brawny trusses of steel and of glue laminated larch collide at unlikely angles before your eyes.
A view of an installation by Danish Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, commissioned for the museum’s opening.
Down below, the building consists of three irregular stacks of galleries, one of them with an auditorium space at the bottom. A glassed in lobby at the centre brings you in at the bottom of the middle stack; from here you move up and down through a complex split level plan. The museum’s bulk goes down into the ground; it is surrounded at one end by a long, stepped waterfall and a sunken reflecting pool, lined with limestone, that reads as a very lovely moat. (The Bilbao museum has a similar one, at ground level.) The routes between include an elevator, an escalator and several staircases; one surrounded by a curtain of glass, and another by steel walls and columns that fold like origami. At times the museum feels like the world’s loveliest construction site.
Sculpture and architecture, finished and unfinished, polished and rough; The building expresses several of Gehry’s long standing preoccupations. “You can’t escape yourself,” he told me. “It’s human nature not to escape your signature, your language. I wish I could. I try and don’t always succeed. But think the work looks different enough in the end.” He aims to make it new, just as he has since the 1960s. Back then, the challenge for ambitious architects was how to disrupt the High Modernist language of the pristine box and move the art forward. Some of Gehry’s peers turned to quoting historic forms pediments and colonnades in concrete. This proved a dead end.
Gehry, immersed in Los Angeles, developed an architecture inspired by the ad hoc cityscape he saw around him: warehouses, oil wells, cheaply built stucco boxes. “All around me they were building tract houses, and hammer marks were part of the game,” he recalled during our conversation. There was a home and studio for the artist Ron Davis, a deceptively simple wedge whose irregular shape produced a trick of perspective and which was clad in industrial corrugated steel. Then in the late seventies, Gehry attacked his own family home in Santa Monica. He took a standard suburban house and wrapped it in a sculptural assemblage of chain link fence, two by fours and galvanized zinc. Inside, he pulled open walls and ceilings to reveal their wood framing.
Gehry replica designer handbags , who until the 1970s had been designing sober buildings for corporate clients, blew up his business model and began to pursue his own aesthetic more freely. He has never been a theorist, and he had an uneasy kinship with the deconstructivist movement (which produced, among others, Daniel Libeskind). Instead he proceeded to follow his muse, working intuitively and individually.
Over time he explored a series of other motifs and ideas, which are catalogued well (if superficially) by a major retrospective of his career at the Pompidou Centre that opened this month. He became a critical favourite by the 1980s as he continued to explore new motifs. There was the building as a village of replica louis vuitton handbags individual rooms; the self conscious use of familiar shapes, including a fish and a boat, in various media; and finally complex shapes that edged toward a private, idiosyncratic language of pure form.
At the Vitra Design Museum in Switzerland (1989), Gehry achieved a museum building that seemed to be literally coming apart curves and shards that somehow contained a coherent interior. This effect was achieved using drawings on paper and conventional fabrication 1:1 replica handbags , but it soon became clear that more advanced tools were needed. By 1990 his office was working with CATIA, 3 D design software developed for the French aerospace industry; it allowed them to conceive complex shapes in tremendous detail, and ultimately to communicate these ideas clearly to builders.
The payoff came in Bilbao. The museum there, designed for the Guggenheim Foundation, was the first building that showed the true creative potential of digital design: Its wild exterior forms would’ve been impossible otherwise. The building was also sacrilegious in its approach 1:1 replica handbags to art galleries: Its split level layout included nine galleries of irregular shapes and proportions.
That is true of the Vuitton museum as well. Its 11 galleries include a few large, rectangular volumes; others are smaller and fake louis bag idiosyncratic, topped by vertiginously high ceilings or deep, twisting skylights. They are joined together by a range of atriums and stairs, mostly glassed in and carved into unusual shapes.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, 1997. Vincent West/Reuters
For LVMH’s widely varied collection of contemporary art www.dolabuy.su , the museum should work well, though it does not generally provide the neutral spaces that remain preferred by most curators. “I think the folklore on what a gallery should be, to be real, is folklore, and it ain’t necessarily so,” Gehry told me. “I’ve always talked to artists, and all my artist friends love Bilbao, and all the museum curators and directors hated it.” A few works in the new museum’s opening show were specifically commissioned, including an installation by Olafur Eliasson of triangular columns mirrored and lit with yellow which sits alongside the below ground reflecting pool. Designer Louis Vuitton Replica Handbags They work beautifully. A set of paintings by Perfect Quality Louis Vuitton Replica Ellsworth Kelly, which consist of coloured squares rotated a few degrees off pale, square bases, reflect the tension between pure form and disorder that infuses Gehry’s work: As some drawings in the Pompidou show reveal, he has often developed his irregular forms by taking a shape high quality designer replica handbags wholesale such as a square and twisting it a bit. Within disorder, there is order.
It’s not the order you find in Paris’s neo classical and Beaux Arts buildings, which Gehry first saw in person when he worked here briefly in 1960, but there is order all the same. artist Gordon Matta Clark, who made fragments of demolished buildings into compelling sculpture, are both in his head.
But you don’t have to think in terms of art to enjoy (or dislike) Gehry’s buildings. His work is always open to interpretation and metaphor. The Bilbao building can look like an artichoke or a dress billowing in the wind the New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp cast it, memorably, as “the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe.” Gehry thinks in metaphors himself and doesn’t mind if you do; he nicknamed an office building in Prague “Fred and Ginger,” and you can easily see the couple leaning in.
Frank Gehry’s reconfigured house in suburban Santa Monica, Calif. Tim Street Porter
This sets him apart from many of his peers. Today’s architectural good taste holds that similes can be implied but never quite stated. So why the sails, and the fish shaped lamps in the caf of the museum? “What’s the alternative?” Gehry replies. “Forms that are strange, like Zaha [Hadid’s]. I don’t know. I’m not convinced.” Borrowing forms is what artists do, he suggests, and have always done. Gehry cited something he’d seen a few days before at the Pompidou’s Duchamp show, a Lger abstraction that borrows its forms from Duchamp’s groundbreaking Nude Descending a Staircase. “It’s amazing,” he said. “Everybody’s talking to everybody.”.