Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Stan Greene
Observer Staff Writer 

Frank Gehry Paves Paradise to Put Up Mega-Structures. What if Gehry's Not Really all That Great?

His works serve corporate branding, include non functional spaces, and are used to justify over-development


September 13, 2016

Artists rendering by Visual House

8150 Sunset. Neighbors are expected to sacrifice their lives, their views, and driving a car, so they can build a Frank Gehry in the neighborhood. Yippee!

Frank Owen Gehry, 87, is a Canadian-born American architect. Those who live in his hometown of Los Angeles knows that when a developer wants to build something massive and controversial, they hire Gehry to whitewash the thing. Hired to design the 8150 Sunset Blvd eyesore, a controversial project just approved by the Los Angeles Planning Commission.

8150 has been appealed to the full City Council. The Laurel Canyon Association is opposed to the project, which will replace a Chase bank and a McDonalds at Laurel Cyn and Sunset Blvd, with a tower that looks kind of like a wet pizza, or a big giant artichoke. The site was formerly the location of the Garden of Allah Hotel, said to be the inspiration for Joni Mitchell;'s Big Yellow Taxi. "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot," she sang.

"Actually, I'd be happy to design small houses," Gehry says "But I'm only hired to do large projects." And that's because Gehry's name is supposed to be a soporific to the neighborhood. They're building a Frank Gehry! Don't complain.

Gehry's work is much praised, but not everyone loves him, baby. Art historian Hal Foster considers Gehry's architecture as, primarily, in the service of corporate branding. Criticism of his work includes complaints that the buildings waste structural resources by creating functionless forms, do not seem to belong in their surroundings and are apparently designed without accounting for the local climate.

Moreover, the popular socialist magazine, Jacobin, pointed out that Gehry's work can be summed up as architecture for the super-wealthy, in the sense that it's expensive, not resourceful, and doesn't serve the interests of the overwhelming majority. Actually, Gehry dismissed common architecture, which ordinary people tend to use as shelter, by saying, "In the world we live in, 98 percent of what gets built and designed today is pure shit."

8150 Sunset. Neighbors are expected to sacrifice their lives, their views, and driving a car, so they can build a Frank Gehry in the neighborhood. Yippee!

A number of his buildings, including his private residence, have become world-renowned attractions. His works are cited as being among the most important works of contemporary architecture in the 2010 World Architecture Survey, which led Vanity Fair to label him as "the most important architect of our age".

Gehry's best-known works include the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, France; MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Vontz Center for Molecular Studies on the University of Cincinnati campus; Experience Music Project in Seattle; New World Center in Miami Beach; Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis; Dancing House in Prague; the Vitra Design Museum and the museum MARTa Herford in Germany; the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; the Cinémathèque française in Paris; and 8 Spruce Street in New York City.

It was his private residence in Santa Monica that jump-started his career. Gehry is also the designer of the future National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.


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