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Old July 9th, 2006, 06:23 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Gehry Wonders if he can Top Guggenheim

American architect Frank Gehry wonders whether he can top Bilbao Guggenheim
By JIM KRANE
8 July 2006

Note : Wasn't Gehry born in Canada?

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - For American architect Frank Gehry, the chance to replicate the wild success of his curvaceous, titanium-roofed Guggenheim Bilbao isn't a calming thought.

"It's scary to start a new project, especially because the first one was so bloody successful," Gehry told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday. "Can you do that again?"

Gehry, one of the globe's most celebrated architects, spoke after the Guggenheim Foundation announced Saturday that this somewhat bland Persian Gulf city would become home to the next Guggenheim museum of contemporary art -- and that Gehry would design it.

Gehry, 77, who wore a rumpled tan suit and walked with a cane, said he initially resisted the idea of designing another Guggenheim. He said he couldn't stomach the thought of trying to repeat the success of the museum in northern Spain at his age, especially in a place as far-flung as Abu Dhabi, a city about which he admitted knowing little.

"It's a new culture to get into, which makes me nervous. My tendency was to not open that door at this time in my life," Gehry said, chatting affably in the gold leafed salon of the opulent Emirates Palace hotel here.

But three hours of "quality time" with Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, who heads the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, was enough to change his mind.

"He came to visit me in California. I told him about what's important to me in making a building," Gehry said. "There was a tremendous rapport."

Other draws of the project were the "magic" of the Arabian desert -- with its undulating peach-colored dunes and the turquoise Persian Gulf -- and the prospect of teaming up again with the Guggenheim Foundation's can-do director Thomas Krens, who oversaw Gehry's Bilbao effort.

"We've had a couple of pretty good hits," Gehry said with a chuckle. "I've got a pretty good track record."

Gehry said he agreed to the project just days ago and had yet to get started, but he said he planned to incorporate shade and other aspects of natural cooling into his next Guggenheim museum.

Abu Dhabi's summer is one of the world's most hostile. Saturday's high temperature reached 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius), with a brutal 65 percent humidity.

"We'll take that into account," he said. "It's got to be something that will make sense here. If you import something and plop it down, it's not going to work."

Gehry didn't say whether he would incorporate Arab architectural motifs, but agreed that the building must suit its location: a manmade spit of land on a desert island in the Persian Gulf.

"It's important for a building to be a good neighbor when it's built, and not like some foreign object from outer space," he said in a question-and-answer session with reporters, many of them Arabs. "It behooves us to try to understand your culture, your ways of building."

Gehry said the bright titanium that is the signature material in his Bilbao museum would probably be dropped because of the relentless sun of Abu Dhabi.

"Titanium is a material that worked very well with that light. All the other materials went dead in the gray sky," he said. "Here, where the sun is so bright, I would guess titanium wouldn't be appropriate."

But Gehry gave no hint of what materials he might use instead. "There is a palette of enough materials in the world," he said.

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi would likely look far different from anything yet seen in the United Arab Emirates. Gehry said he was unimpressed by the concrete and glass skyscrapers sprouting in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as the buildings in the West which inspired them. He singled out Las Vegas for its tacky structures, but said the gambling capital was now "struggling to change its stripes."

"Unfortunately contemporary stuff -- not only here but everywhere -- has been so damned banal," he said with a dismissive wave. "In the U.S. and in the U.K., you have to drive far and long to find anything you'd call architecture."

Gehry said the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, or GAD, would be the most expensive yet, if only because the price of construction has gone beyond the $300 per square foot it cost to build the Bilbao museum.

"It's not going to be cheaper than that," he said. Krens put construction costs at around $600 to $700 per square foot -- which would mean a total cost of near US$200 million (euro 160 million).

The museum's building site now sits under water, just off the shore of Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, which was to undergo a $27 billion makeover to become the Emirates' cultural epicenter. The building site would be landfilled as Gehry works on schematic drawings, which he said he would unveil in four months, in November -- quicker than the usual six months it takes him to come up with a design.

"There's a fast track going on," he said.

The entire design would take four years, one year less than the five-year construction period. Gehry said he had some control over the shape of the landfill as well as an outdoor pavilion planned as a sculpture garden.
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Old July 9th, 2006, 06:33 PM   #2
Taller, Better
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If he were to ask me that question, I am afraid my answer would be "no".
Bilboa is lovely and one of the nicest in the world, but I don't think he has the depth to do something like that again, and in a different style.
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Old July 9th, 2006, 06:50 PM   #3
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Gehry can't hold FLW's jockies.

Yes, you too can crumple a piece of paper, put into a small model surrounded by trees - and call it "architectural art".

Sans for one or two examples, Gehry blows.
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Old July 9th, 2006, 07:09 PM   #4
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I don't know, it's pretty hard to top. I don't think he will, just because it's his most famous work.

Yes, he was born in Toronto, but left to go to California when he was 17. I think he rarely identifies with being Canadian anymore (except when in Toronto?).
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Old July 10th, 2006, 06:09 PM   #5
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It would be nice if he can give some variety in his designs rather than try to put the same form in a few cities.
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Old July 12th, 2006, 06:52 AM   #6
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That is my one complaint about him... he seems to be a bit of a one trick pony. He latched onto a good idea and milked it for all it was worth, but how many versions of Bilboa does the world really need? There are lots of people out there, like authors for example, who write one really great novel, and that's it... no more. Rather than continue on forever, I think this man in his 70's would do well to bow out now while he is still near the top of the heap.
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