Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Project 66 #7: Gehry Faux-slot Canyon



As a photographer I have long aspired to photograph the slot canyons of the American Southwest. These narrow canyons are geological lacerations slashed into the scorched skin of the earth by the relentless assault of wind and water over eons. The resultant twisting ribbons through the sandstone and limestone strata can be over 100 feet deep and in places only a few feet wide.  In some places the walls have been worn smooth while in others wavy ridges produce a fluidity that seems to defy their solidity. They do not open widely to the sky these corkscrewing cracks.  Sunlight only briefly penetrates the narrow crevices as the sun sweeps overhead, creating moving shafts of light that illuminate the walls’ rich palettes of reds, oranges, golds, lavenders and black in a rhythmic light show complimenting the sinuous undulations of the sculpted canyon walls. The shapes, turns, textures, tones and colors of the rugose canyons make them greatly prized photography destinations.

While a field trip to the slot canyons remains a “To Do” entry on my photography bucket list I recently had a photographic experience that, surprisingly, put me in mind of a walk through one, and a grand one at that. That surrogate experiences might exist is perhaps not surprising, but the source of this one surprised me.  It was neither a natural landscape feature nor was it located in an arid, desolate environment.  My ‘slot canyon’ experience happened in Seattle while exploring architect Frank Gehry’s phenomenon known as the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP; formerly the EMP Museum).

Gehry’s characteristic futuristic design is a fusion of four individually colored metal-clad units, each with distinct undulating facades.  According to MoPOP’S website: 

"A fusion of textures and myriad colors, MoPOP's exterior conveys all the energy and fluidity of music.  Three-thousand panels, made up of 21 thousand individually cut and shaped stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles, encase the outside of the building.  Their individual finishes respond to different light conditions and appear to change when viewed from different angles, reminding audiences that music and culture is constantly evolving."

Standing in a copper-colored "faux-slot" created by an entryway at the confluence of two of the structural units while the sun popped in and out from behind passing clouds I was reminded less of the fluidity of music and culture and more of the fluidity, undulations and color changes typical of nature's slot canyons. 

Whether by the architect’s design or by a healthy dose of imagination on my part, these copper-clad walls provided a surrogate experience sufficient to tide me over pending my much-anticipated exploration of the real deal.


'In some places the walls have been worn smooth...'


'while in others wavy ridges produce a fluidity that seems to
defy their solidity.'


'They do not open widely to the sky these
corkscrewing cracks.'


'Sunlight only briefly penetrates the narrow
crevices as the sun sweeps overhead,...'


'creating moving shafts of light that illuminate
the walls' rich palettes of reds, oranges, golds,
lavenders and black...'


'in a rhythmic light show complimenting the
sinuous undulations of the sculpted canyon
walls."