Thursday, 18 March 2010

Frank Gehry - Trendsetter, Visionary, Innovator and Legendary Architect

Frank Gehry on the popular TV show, the Simpsons

Are we going out of a job?

> For the 'some' of us who get flustered with scheduling design, drawing specs, doling out rigid "dos & don't s" & hate it - this may sound temptingly sweet!
> And the 'others' of us who seek to eliminate chaos, standardize, specify & bring in that much-needed order - an antitheses on our very fiber! A death knell to us 'determinists'!

2002 - Case Western reserve University found themselves drawn to architect Frank Gehry's controversial but widely acclaimed style, hired him, approved his design and brought in a small army of contractors to build it. The contractors duly admired, in a shocked & fretful way, the model of the God-awfully complex structure they were about to undertake, and then asked for the blueprints, to which Gehry's team replied that there weren't any. The contractors thought the group was joking, but Gehry & his associates were serious. But constructing a building without blueprints, the stunned contractors might well have sputtered, would be like putting together a television set from scratch without a wiring diagram.

Gehry's vision was....

To capture the building's intended emotional content, everyone working on the building should keep creating throughout the construction process. Withholding blueprints is a way of making sure that happens. Foregoing a detailed plan is disruptive - it creates convolution, making a neat & well-defined process messy. Every time I've given my brief to the contractors, I've had to specify every little thing...miss the slightest & I've gotten an unholy mess on my hands, crippling delays, me calling the contractor a f**%#@  moron & him calling me some equivalent choice expression. The outcome hit me like a ton of bricks....

Not only was the finished building a stunning hit, completed on time & within budget,

My first impulse was - hah! Yeah well if your project has infinite funding and all the worlds time! But sorry, not for me... I've got deadlines, cost constraints...

Then I finished the sentence...

...but most of the contractors were so pleased with the invention into which they had pushed that they ended up changing the way they do business. 
....No way! Get outta here..... 

....but is that possible? (especially when you aren't Gehry)

Did Gehry succeed because he had brainy contractors? Please find me one... for sure, we are unanimous on this one. Worse, can I trust my contractor to innovate; find a solution so far from his way of working? The answer was right there on the same page...

Freed from the constraints of a blueprint's rigid specifications & standard operating procedures, the contractors & architects were able to collaboratively rethink the design & construction techniques in a way necessary to achieve the project's goals. That led to an eruption of innovation.

Somewhere between extremes of rigid spec docs + schedules of columns, footings, steel members, rebars, concrete mix, etc, etc .....and...... a squiggle & a sketch showing a germ of an idea where we have no clue  how to build it........lies a sweet-spot which is all-inclusive, very gratifying & "happy design". Or so I gather......

I don’t think I have found it as yet . When we are striving to achieve standardization & conformity in our work (please, I'm not a control freak), going by 'Gehry's vision' would mean we might as well mothball our drafters....scary!!

  Some of Gehry's Work 

PS - Text in blue - "A Perfect Mess" - Eric Abrahamson & David H Freedman,
        Text in black - my take on things.

Posted by Kiran

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