Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Convocation of Sycophants

As it turned out, I was the only one in the room who wanted Gehry.

Resounding applause followed the announcement today that Herzog & de Meuron would be the architects who will design the new Miami Art Museum in Bicentennial Park. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. It was then that I realized that I was also a naive fool. I actually believed choices would be given to the committee but instead, Terence Riley, the new director of the museum, recommended only the Swiss firm. When the panel of five had no questions, it all started to become clear when the august body rubber stamped his choice with a unanimous vote in favor of the recommendations. Again, this met hearty applause from a room filled with approximately 100 people, all of whom seemed to know each other because of the loud conversation and extreme cheek kissing going on before the meeting commenced. In retrospect, it was as if members of the museum made it a point to rally behind their new director's choice, stuffing the small room with eager-to-please-ringers.

When it was opened to the public for questions, it turned out I was the only one in the room who was disappointed in not getting the most important architect since Appolodorous of Damascus to design what could have been Miami's signature building. No one backed me up. I stood alone. I felt a lot like a Jew who stumbled into a Nazi rally. Riley took my question: After more than meeting all of the criteria he had laid out for selection, why wasn't Frank Gehry not chosen? His response was less than adequate for me. It seemed he was straining to justify his choice. Which is understandable considering Gehry's team has created some of the most well-known buildings in the world, single-handedly defining the term "destination architecture". When I spoke, I said your choice appeals more to the intellect than to the spirit of the common man. If the choice had been put up on the November ballot as pictures only of the works of both architectural firms, I'm sure the man-in-the-booth would have chosen Gehry's exciting, spirit lifting works. His stuff speaks to the heart and gets you excited about all of the possibilities the future may bring because his work is of the future. There has been nothing like it before or since and, like the emergence of Picasso who redefined art, Gehry is making us rethink what is architecture and I believe, as Picasso has shown, everything that follows Gehry will be second tier. It was a wasted historic moment and Miami still must wait for that one defining structure. It's just too bad that the last best piece of public land suitable for such a building won't see a Gehry on it.

Think about it. Not one person backed me up. No one in that room thought Gehry was worthy. Amazing.

Call me a sore loser, but this is my blog and I'll cry if I want to.

Verticus Erectus


Manola Blablablanik said...

I don't know w hat the status is, but isn't Frank G going to design the New World Symphony's Soundspace project, North of Lincoln Road?

Manola Blablablanik said...

Oh, btw, after having visited the Guggenheim Bilbao, I couldn't agree more. What an amazing work of art in and of itself.

Verticus S. Erectus said...

Gehry did win that commission in Miami Beach but as far as we are concerned, you can never have enough Gehry. As for the fact that you have been to the Guggenheim Bilbao, we envy you.

BTW, Lincoln Road will also have a building, a parking garage, designed by the Swiss team of Herzog and de Meuron who won the commission to design the Miami Art Museum. So, in the short space of a couple of blocks, you will be able to stroll between the works of two of the world's most influential architectural firms. Not too shabby. Lincoln Road is famous for its people watching. Now it can add "building watching."

Unfortunately, this reminds us of the cold war. At that time, Americans were constantly reminded of a "missle gap" between us and the Ruskies. Now, I fear at least for Miamians, we have a "Gehry gap" with Miami Beach.

Lissette said...

Although I have to say that I agree with you on most of the points that you mention, I don't agree that Gehry is the one that is going to change the way we see Architecture. There are many revolutionary and free thinking architects out there who along with Gehry are changing the way we see and think Architecture is and should be. For example, Calatrava. You take a man who studied engineering and sculpture and turn him into an architect, and what you get are things like the Milwaukee Art Museum which basically put Milwaukee on the map as far as architecture goes. Let's not forget Zaha Hadid who is, as far as female architects goes, my idol. Her ideology of "let's make the world beautiful through Architecture and Sculpture" is just awesome!

Herzog & de Meuron are great architects, and I think they are appropriate for what the site calls for. They take in the project as a whole, and don't force their style down your throat, whether you like it or not.

As far as iconic buildings go, I'm still in love with I.M. Pei's Suntrust tower. I think the way his lines flow with the curvature of the building, and his small, undistinguishable, break from the horizontal lines with the vertical line that leads your eyes up to the top building and through each of the "steps" is beautiful. His simple yet complicated design is classic, in my opinion.

Verticus S. Erectus said...

Well, Lissette, you're entitled to your opinion no matter how WRONG it is! Just kidding. I agree with everything you say, it is only my conjecture that the architects you mention are, compared to Frankie G, lesser luminaries. I love them all, but like any parent, you still have your favorite.

Anonymous said...

Not trying to be Critical Verticus, But having studied architecture since when i was a kid I have a different opinion of Gehry. Gehry reminds me of a shiny new concept car, it might be breathtaking or it might be a dud, but in the end it does the same thing as all others do,its runs. Gehry work is reminiscent of me hitting the copy and paste button on my computer, I'll get 20 sentences but they will all say the same thing. Analyzing Guggenheim, Disney hall, and Soundscape you notice that he likes to copy and paste. His signature style can be described In three words shiny, blobby, and unurban. His buildings are attention whores which are extremely expensive to maintain and in the future they'll display what a horrible trend deconstructive architecture was.

Verticus S. Erectus said...

You probably have a problem with abstract art too. But that's okay, whatever floats your boat. See, you're talking to a guy who likes, shiny, chrome, and neon. Also, it is my opinion that the only thing that will save your raggedy ass from obliteration by space invaders will be if you live in a city with a Gehry. Why? Because those buildings will remind them of home and will be willing to cut its inhabitants some slack. Thank God I live in Miami Beach. We'll be getting our Gehry soon and I know I'll be safe-- at least from space invaders; Muslims with a jones for martydom is another thing entirely.

Green Space Lover said...

The two museums have been burning through the taxpayers money. MAm and the Museum of Science both covet taxpayer money. How are they doing at raising the private funds they promised? I believe MAM is required to raise $100 Mil minimum. Otherwise they do not get to use the $200+ Mil site.

And I would rather see Bicentennial Park stay green. Museums can always go on non-waterfront sites. And if they want our money they must raise some of their own.