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There is no doubt that Gehry is genial and a legend in his circuit (and beyond, for his reputation extends well into popular culture, for what it's worth). Many of his masterpieces will be talked about for decades to come. He has pushed the envelope and crossed boundaries. His imagination is without equal. That said, I am afraid Gehry has turned that most dreaded of corners and turned into a parody of himself. His new works are no longer fresh but variations on a theme, his signature predictable and tired. But never say never, it may not be too late for the man to reinvent himself.....if he so desires.

As for architecture being a true artform, a resounding yes. Denying so would be like saying that, for example, Beethoven's late string quartets are not true works of art. After all, a string quartet is a collaborative effort. The notes on the page are the equivalent of a rendenring or a sketch. Not until the players strike the notes and make sense of them do the written notes matter. Likewise with architecture. No apologies or justifications needed.

Now let's hear it from the resident architects, please.


Architecture is a true art form only in the hands of the (very very few) architects who are possessed of (1) a singular vision, and (2) the clout to be able to do what they want. In that regard, only a handful of architects have ever qualified as true artists: Frank Lloyd Wright, definitely. Eero Saarinen, perhaps. Mies van der Rohe, in the sense that his minimalist creations are truly beautiful masterworks, whereas his followers, using precisely the same materials, usually created mediocrities.

Gehry's definitely an artist (though Gabriel's point about him now doing mere variations on a theme is a good one).

As for the vast bulk of architects, most are nothing more than highly skilled technicians. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

And really, is architecture all that different than most other forms of art in that regard? There are lots of talented composers out there, but only one Mozart. Lots of great painters, but only Picasso was Picasso.

When I was studying architectural history in grad school, my prof said something to me one day that I've never fogotten: "We only honor the innovators." Ultimately, the rest just don't matter that much.


I remember a symposium on architecture which had a very vocal David Hockney on the panel. The artist went on at length that if architects weren't such self-consumed egotists they'd allow the public to drive the design and the architect would use their technical know-how to get it built.

Then someone in the audience stood up and praised Hockney for his insight and asked when Hockney's studio would be open for the public to drop in and tell him what kind of painting they would like him to do.


I believe Richard Serra's point was that art responds to its own criteria (he has been emphatic about this). For example, when he sits down to create one of his steel sculptures there are relatively few constraints--the artwork is essentially only about itself. Additionally, it is generally the vision of one person, in effect sole-authorship.
His view of architecture is radically different--architecture must respond to a budget, a specific site, zoning, codes, a clients needs, mechanical realities, etc--in that building is fundamentally about trade-offs. As well, architecture is quite often a collaborative endeavor of hundreds of people: a project may have multiple architects/designers, dozens of engineers, and hundreds of craftspeople, plus the oversight of municipalities.
His writings on this are rather persuasive if one can get past the semantics of art and architecture.


Well said agustin. I also would agree with Hockney. It is specious to compare the fully realized, built form of architecture with a painting. The amount of thought, energy, effort, material and money (unless it is very expensive jewelry) between even an above average piece of fine art and the built form of the most mediocre building is simply not comparable.

As a lover of the forms of not only buildings but aircraft, automobiles, all things imbued with purpose that are the product of a human creative mind, you have to ask how, if a famous designer architect was not involved, did that end up possessing beauty?

A quote from a recent interview with Renzo Piano in the Guardian U.K. newspaper when asked about architects approaching their work as sculpture... "Bull___!!!"



um yeah.



Back home fresh from seeing this documentary. I found it profoundly touching and powerful. Now that I know more of what drove Mr. Gehry to his flights of fancy, I have found renewed admiration for the man and his work.

I insist that his current output seems to be missing that certain impetus, now that the man is cross-over famous. Maybe this is the underbelly of overexposure: his work is now defined by his clients' demands for another "Gehry" prize-building. Wish he'd stay a little aloof so he could dream so more. But maybe it's time for someone else to do the dreaming.

Also, I could not stomach the ovation given him by the beyond-wealthy and beyond-self-satisfied crowd at LA's Disney Hall. These people are so far removed from Mr. Gehry's humble roots that he should be wary of them. He ought to bite the hand that feeds. What if Mr. Gehry "came home" and turned his considerable efforts toward architecting for the less precious and less fortunate in this country?



Augustin, I see his point but I can't imagine he isn't as influenced as any architect but perhaps not as clearly so. Serra might not be his own best example here because his work is informed by engineers, locations (many are in public spaces which have a program at least as to the size and the uses of the space), and public acceptance.

He might be uncomfortable with that, but given the size of his works - they aren't small paintings which he can tuck into a corner if he's the only patron - his work most definately does not respond to it's own criteria.

I think one of the proofs of architecture as an artform is Gehry's Guggenheim. Stand in the gallery with Richard Serra's "Snake" and you'll find yourself marvevling at the sculptural aspects of Snake and the great space it resides in.


Keith, your point is well taken; his work is informed by others--however I don't think his vision is ever, well, let's call it, encumbered with the numerous realities of building. Additionally, a strict translation of his argument would render most commisioned "art" as not really art but something else (because the art is undoubtedly responding to a whole host of other criteria--budget, space restraints, etc). But I believe the spirit of his definition is valid. And I think it could be described slightly differently:
An artist's obligation is to the creation. In effect, the artist is solely responsibly to the art (and perhaps to themselves).
Architect's obligations are also to the creation, but to the owner, themselves, and to society at large. I, personally, find it to be a fundamental difference. I'd note that I don't think its a positive/negative difference, only that at their core's art and architecture are intrinsicly different. So I could agree with the proposition that Frank Gehry is an artist, but the buildings envisioned--once realized and meeting all the requirements of reality--are architecture. That's just my take... and a wordy one at that.


In comparison to various other forms of art, architecture unquestionably appears as the one which is peculiar in nature. This peculiarity is brought about by a couple of reasons:

The first being, that architecture cannot be conceived solely or even primarily as a “form of art”.

“To restrict the meaning of (architecture) formalism to art for art’s sake is not only reactionary; it can also be a purposeless quest for perfection or originality which degrades form into a mere instrumentality”. NUNZIA RODANINI

The other being that architecture unlike other art-forms can possess the ability to influence all the human senses rather than pertaining to only that of vision.

“Architecture, painting, and sculpture are all called fine arts. They appeal to the eye as music does to the ear. But architecture is not judged by visual appeal alone. Buildings affect all of the human senses – sound, smell, touch, taste, and vision”. FORREST WILSON

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