Sketches of Frank Gehry

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    • #709473

      …is now showing at the IFI until Sunday 8th July.


      Famous for romantic comedies and political thrillers, Oscar winner Pollack has, until now, avoided the documentary format, a fact he is at pains to remind his friend and subject.

      This, coupled with his confessed ignorance of architecture, makes Pollack, in Gehry’s eyes, an ideal medium through which the architect’s singular approach to building can be channelled. These two consummate professionals have been close friends for years, and Pollack’s admiration and affection for Gehry is apparent in his gentle, informal and unobtrusive shooting style, which is often content to simply observe the man at work.

      Gehry is best known as the architect responsible for the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (1997), the Pritzker Bandshell Chicago (2004) and his instantly iconic cardboard furniture. The work emerges as a dynamic, graceful, though sometimes aggressively personal expression of form. His technique of developing ideas with threedimensional models rather than on paper is sculptural and intuitive, confounding the prevailing canon of architectural processes.

      As its title suggests, Pollack’s film is a loosely rendered portrait, a series of sketches rather than a complete picture. Indeed, it is tempting to see the film’s informal structure as an extension of Gehry’s impressionistic scribbling, the director forfeiting stylistic rigour in favour of an organic exploration of the artistic process. Although talking-head interviews with the likes of Philip Johnson and acerbic critic Hal Foster provide a degree of balance, this is essentially a celebration of individual talent. —David O Mahony.

    • #789963

      This film is a must for anyone wishing to study or appreciate Architecture.
      It also shows how CAD software has been specifically developed to translate design models into drawings for construction purposes.

    • #789964

      Warning: If you plan on seeing this before Sunday it might be best not to read the following. Or, in internet lingo- Spoiler alert!! 😉

      *** *** ***

      I went to see this last night. It wasn’t bad, and was a darn sight better than My Architect, that self-indulgent ‘Louis Kahn, the father I never knew’ mopefest that was out not so long ago.

      It gave an interesting insight into the workings of his office and a partial insight into the workings of his mind, but I’m still not convinced he’s all that. Having a friend make the movie meant it was a bit sycophantic in places, though at least some negative comment was included among the hagiographers, mainly from Hal Foster (and, perhaps surprisingly, from Charles Jencks, who admits that he thinks some of the work is poor).

      A curious theme emerged in the course of the film, though. I’m used to hearing architects talk about space as their raw material, but this seemed peripheral for Gehry compared to his love of surface. He spoke at length about painting and admitted to a desire to be a painter. In a funny way, his buildings can be viewed as paintings in 3-D as much as they can as sculptures, the latter seeming to be the accepted discourse among his fans.

      What bothers me about the love of surface, though, is the quantity of structure required to support it. From a distance the buildings are undeniably spectacular, but on closer inspection there is a huge amount of structure which to me reads as visual ‘noise’ or clutter. A point is made early on in the film that none of his buildings have yet fallen down (by Ed Ruscha? I don’t recall) so, in essence, he must know what he’s doing, but that ignores the fact that with enough structure anything can be made to stand up. I first noticed this with the fish in Barcelona (1992) which is oppressively heavy up close, and it’s a characteristic that carries through much of his work from what I can gather. In other words, the buildings lack a certain lightness that you’d expect to be present from all the praise he gets (though I should admit to having seen very few of them in the flesh).

      Still, overall it’s nice to see movies at least beginning to attempt to get behind the scenes of the creative process in architecture. More of it, I say, but less of a love-in would be nice in future. And more of the nuts and bolts of the workaday would have been good too, rather than the rarefied ‘creative vision’ theme being peddled. Surely even Gehry’s office needs to consider the practical and mundane stuff?

      A question: how representative was his office of architectural offices in general? Not very, would be my guess. Were any architects jealous of his workplace? Or would it drive you crazy to work for him?

      PS Has Dennis Hopper never heard of the phrase ‘tall poppy syndrome’?

      PPS The headline of a Hal Foster article was included in the movie- ‘Why all the hoopla?’. For the curious, here it is:

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