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A Classic

What Mr. Gehry is saying, then, is that there can be beauty in such harsh elements when they are carefully wrought and precisely put together, that they can create a new kind of order which can yield as much physical ease and comfort as a conventional house. – Paul Goldberger

I just got back from LA where I went to the Gehry House for the first time in almost fifteen years. If you don’t know, the existing house was bought in Los Angeles the 1970s and then remodeled by Gehry. It is iconic modernism and deconstructivism. It has won the 25-year AIA 2012 Building award.

Frank Gehry’s architecture comes with a slew of descriptors: innovative, sensuous, modern. But the Gehry House in Los Angeles is a classic. And I know it’s hard to believe that one could ever call a Frank Gehry house a classic. But there is something so bold and yet so right about this remodel. Nothing fussy, nothing dated, even 25 years later.

I like it even better now than I did when I was a young architect because now I can actually understand just what real courage and vision it took to complete a project like this.

When Gehry purchased the property, the original house was not torn down. Instead, he skillfully wove his architecture around and against the original building. The old and new are now in a dialogue with each other, loudly but also joyfully and whimsically. Gehry had the brains, balls and restraint (an undervalued trait in architecture) to make something this good.

What a relief to see no fake historicism! No egomaniac modernism! And not even a hint of Dwell modernism (you know the kind: flat roof with extended overhangs and lots of Ipe siding! Gehry looked to innovate, to create, and not to replicate.

And despite what you may think, money was an object for Gehry. The chain-link fence or corrugated metal were inelegant, inexpensive materials for an elegant design. Cheap doesn’t always mean bad and besides, Frank Gehry still lives in the house. The project has clearly served his family well.

I will not bore you with anymore “archibabble,” considering the fact that many architectural critics have written much more insightful articles than I could about this project.

I just want you all to remember the next time you go to LA go check it out;  it will knock your socks—or flip flops (it is LA after all)–off.

For more information and quotes, keep reading after the jump.

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Guest post: The Children of Architecture

This guest post was written by my daughter, who really needed a good use of all her post-college free time.

I used the title to make this blog post seem deceivingly deep, as if I’m ruminating on the status of architecture in the twenty-first century or if the progeny masters programs produce are really up to snuff.

No, no. I’m talking about the children of architects. Really, I’m talking about myself and the ways which my mother’s career choice has made my life unpleasant.

1. Dinner conversations are boring

Look, yes, architects have friends who aren’t also architects. My mother’s social circles include interior designers, landscapers, furniture designers, contractors, engineers and artists! But architects like to hang out with each other and when you get architects together, all they can ever do is talk about architecture. Sometimes, I just want to interrupt conversations with  “WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON ISRAEL”  so I can stop hearing the word “urbanization.”

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Failed First

I learned the hard way that buildings, especially the ones you don’t like, don’t go away.

The good news is, you can bury the incriminating evidence. Before starting my firm in 1986, I worked for and with other architects. And while my name and signature are somewhere on those drawings, drafts and contracts, I’ve been assured that they are deeply hidden in a storage area of pre-electronic files.

One of my very first moonlight projects was with my good friend Kent Macdonald and it was as a remodel. The project included a revamped façade.  I’d like to think that the project’s final appearance was a result of naiveté (I was paralyzed by excitement and fear) and some stubborn clients.

It has an unfortunate composition that includes two different materials that step, something we would never do today. A clumsy balcony hovers overhead. It has been repainted in the ugliest cold color that emphasize the clumsy composition.

Luckily, for a period of time, the evidence was located on a sleepy San Francisco street. Unfortunately, a popular store opened half a block away and now my abomination is passed by thousands. Worse yet, by the time I opened my own firm five years later, I was living within walking distance to the project.

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