Thursday, March 7, 2019

Happy 90th Frank Owen Goldberg

Stata Building, MIT, Boston, MA

One week ago today, on February 28, Frank Owen Goldberg celebrated his 90th birthday.

"Who the hell is Frank Goldberg?"  you might well ask.  It could be that you know him better by his adopted name - Frank Gehry - the renowned Canadian-American architect.  Ostensibly the best known architect of our time, Gehry's name is synonymous with the unorthodox - some would say the outrageous - materials, shapes and forms used in his building designs.

Born on February 28, 1929 Gehry graduated from USC and the Harvard Graduate School of Design before embarking on what would become a historic but wildly controversial career as an architect.  He emerged as a prominent figure in the Deconstructivist movement which eschewed the prevailing principle that form must always follow function - or even be related to it some way.  According to ArchDaily, the architectural weblog, Gehry expresses this aesthetic "in titanium-clad undulating envelopes, perplexing volumes and aesthetically discordant detailing."

Gehry's first brush with fame came after he remodeled his Santa Monica residence, shrouding the original bungalow in chain link, plywood and glass geometric forms.  This early unorthodoxy foreshadowed the unconventional use of materials and shapes that would become the hallmark of his later building style.  The remodeling effort was met with cheers ... and jeers.

This early bipolar reaction to his remodeled home also foreshadowed his simultaneous ascension to the top of critic's 'Best" and "Worst" Architect lists.  You see, in addition to all the accolades, his work has also been criticized as being bizarre, impractical, overly costly, inefficient, wasteful of resources and functionally flawed.

As a self-proclaimed 'deconstructivist' architectural photographer interested in capturing and promoting artistic forms in the built environment without consideration for how they might relate to function, Gehry's work has had a strong appeal for me.  I have had the opportunity to photograph many of Gehry's buildings and will always seek opportunities to photograph more.  But it is not his architecture that I honor by commemorating his 90th birthday.  I am not qualified to comment other than to say what I like.

I celebrate his vision, his commitment to his art and to his tenacity in the face of criticism. That's something I struggle with.

In awarding Gehry the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1989 the jury commented that Gehry is
"Always open to experimentation, he has as well a sureness and maturity that resists, in the same way that Picasso did, being bound either by critical acceptance or his successes." 
Thanks for the inspiration.

In celebration I offer a collection of some my photos of Gehry's iconic architecture, including the Stata Building on the MIT campus (top), my most critically acclaimed photograph.

In you are interested in learning more about Gehry's work I've included this link to a slideshow of 31 of his buildings recently published in Architectural Digest.

Weisman Museum, University of Minnesota
Weisman Museum, University of Minnesota
Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle, WA
The Dancing Building, Prague, Czech Republic
Beekman Tower, 8 Spruce St., NYC
DZ Bank, Berlin, Germany
Detail - Jay Pritzker Pavillion, Chicago, IL

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