Frank Gehry's new $300 million computer science and artificial intelligence building at MIT has occupants up in arms (NYT photo)When Frank Gehry's good, he's very, very good. Take his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, blogged here. But when he's not, it's "Seuss meets Duchamp’s 'Nude Descending a Staircase," as Lileks dubs the new Gehry building at MIT, linking to Peeve Farm proprietor Brian Tiemann's critique of post-postmodern architecture, with its "buildings that don't look so much like 'buildings' as 'things'":
The students and the faculty loathe this building, which in my friend Erik's words looks, simply, like a "pile". On the inside, it's designed to a bizarre utopian ideal that states that all spaces should be "public" spaces—so as to encourage interaction between people of all stations—and the result is that the people who would normally want private offices and cubicles no longer have any place where they can concentrate. It's always noisy, there's always traffic, and there's no privacy. The vision is more important than function. Never mind if masses of students are already drawing up petitions to have this horrible building decommissioned, or at least to have themselves moved to a building a little less deranged.Tiemann links to a May 13 New York Times review that "positively glows," but the Times itself is so behind the times that it charges $2.95 for articles over a week old. Who's going to bother? At any rate, the Peeve Farmer spares us the trouble of having to slog through it ourselves:
A toybox at dawn! . . . A Disney animation! . . . A medieval Italian hill town rising amid the gray rectangular sameness of its section of campus in an industrial part of Cambridge!
Richard Serra's arrogant "Tilted Arc" in Javits Plaza was rejected by the public whose NEA money had funded it. Above the artist poses defiantly in front of his work. (© 2009 Oliver Morris photo)"It's architectural narcissism," says Lileks of in-your-face architecture. Yes. 'Reminds us of the narcissistic tale of Richard Serra's publicly-funded "Tilted Arc" monstrosity in Javits Plaza a few years back. The sculpture was replaced by landscape architect Martha Schwartz's user-friendly new plaza, reconnecting the space to the surrounding context. From Schwartz's project description:
During the time that Richard Serra's "Tilted Arc" inhabited the plaza, this 14-foot high sculpture was an obstruction both visually and physically to pedestrians. After the sculpture was removed, the plaza remained vacant and disconnected from its context. The intent of the plaza redesign was to create a useable, lively open space in the heart of the city.
Martha Schwartz's people-friendly plaza at Jacob Javits Convention Center Plaza in New York City (Martha Schwartz, Inc. photo)Both Serra and Gehry -- or at least those responsible for choosing to place their work in these particular places -- could have used the advice of first-century B.C. Roman Architect Vitruvius in his Ten Books on Architecture, where he said that the arrangement of a building must present "no hindrance to use," and each class of building should be "assigned to its suitable and appropriate exposure." A "Disney animation" at home in LA becomes a noisy neighbor in Tech Square, Cambridge. Note: Go here for a list of the usual suspects' takes on Gehry's MIT building. It seems Lileks and Tiemann aren't the only ones who aren't favorably impressed.