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.