Gehry talks craft at packed event

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No caption. Photo by Lorraine Abdulahad.

Frank Gehry’s auditoriums are known for their vast interior spaces, but in the cramped Hastings Hall on Thursday evening, space was just what was missing.

World-renowned architect Gehry spoke to an audience of about 250 at the School of Architecture. Because the hall reached capacity 20 minutes before the event, students, professors and New Haven residents were sent to overflow rooms with a live video and sound feed.

During his lecture, Gehry spoke about what he termed “the plight of architects now,” and then showed slides depicting his major works.

Gehry said architects today have become too “marginalized.” It is common for owners and contractors to become partners, leaving architects outside of the building process. As a result, architects do not have the power to see their designs realized the way they envision them, he said.

“Architects need to take more responsibility to become involved with the construction process,” Gehry said. “If I have a legacy for anything, I hope that it’s contributing to making our profession more active, more powerful and less marginalized.”

Gehry then walked the audience through a slideshow of many of his most famous works. Rather than only displaying the finished projects, Gehry explained the process of designing each building, showing pictures of block units, models and designs. He used the pictures to explain his stylistic preferences, such as his love of bay windows that jut out at the top floors of tall buildings.

“It creates the effect of putting people out in space,” he said.

Gehry also emphasized the important of compromise, explaining that an architect can never have a building exactly the way he wants it.

One of the buildings Gehry showed was the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute clinic in Las Vegas — a 67,000 square foot structure of undulating glass and steel. Gehry said he has turned down many clients who wanted him to design a building in Las Vegas because he does not like the casino and gambling scene. But when asked to design a clinic for Alzheimer’s research, Gehry said he readily sympathized with the cause. The building, completed last year, consists of a clinic area and then a separate ballroom, which people rent out for bar mitzvahs and weddings, with the proceeds going to fund Alzheimer’s research.

Gehry also talked about the importance of being environmentally conscious, and he showed the completely “green” Novartis building he designed in Switzerland, which runs entirely on energy generated by solar panels on its roof. But he also said he has been criticized for not being green enough in other projects.

“The entire green movement has been fetishized and used only as a tool for promotion,” he said. “But it’s something that other architects and I have been talking about for years.”

Greg Gunderson ARC ’11 said he enjoyed hearing about Gehry’s approach to architecture, and that he liked Gehry’s unpretentiousness.

“He’s concerned with more than just the design of a building,” Gunderson said. “He focuses on how to actually build it.”

But Ed Hsu, a student admitted this year to the Yale School of Architecture, confessed that though he likes Gehry’s work, he does not love it.

Gehry’s lecture coincided with an open house for admitted students at the School of Architecture.

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