An Architecture of Joy




Just finished watching ‘An architecture of Joy’ (Michael Blackwood Productions, 2000) which is a dvd on Frank Gehry and some of his works. I got it out as it came up while I was searching for some info on the Guggenheim museum Bilbao, which I will be coming into close contact with in about 2 months – Spain trip excite excite! So anyway, after a year in architecture school you hear all these names, whether during class or just around the place – Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Shigeru Ban just to name a few, along with the key figures of Modern Architecture that include Le Corbusier, Mies and Frank Lloyd Wright. I find that learning about these different and diverse practises of such people to really be quite inspiring, regardless if you like their work of not. Just like learning how to draw; you copy from the masters first to perfect your skills before creating your own work. Must say history was my favourite paper in sem 2; not just because the lecturer was good but especially the content. Pretty much a new topic every lecture, covering the history of modern architecture from about 1840 to present-day in 12 weeks. SO GOOD. Except there was only 2 or 3 lectures covering contemporary architecture, hence I can only remember the names and some key works. Yea so Frank Gehry..(just realised how much I ramble and deviate from the intended topic of the post..oops).

My first encounter with Frank Gehry’s work was in 2006 when I was on a highschool orchestra tour throughout California. I remember walking down the street with fellow musicians towards the Walt Disney concert hall for an afternoon of sight-seeing. At that time I did not know about Gehry or his work, but I remember my amazement when seeing the silver curving forms for the first time. They were nothing like the conventional type of buildings which I was so accustomed to (didn’t know much about architecture at all back then, wasn’t even thinking about architecture school I don’t think). I didn’t know if I liked it or not, that wasn’t important. It was simply different, and because it was so, I remembered it.

There were a few things I learnt from watching ‘An Architecture of Joy’ (how Gehry describes his work), such as that he has this thing for fish. He’s made a few fish sculptures (some large-scale, there’s one in Barcelona, wonder if I’ll see it when I go) and they seem to appear in some of his work in one form or another. Also that he was influenced by Japanese architecture (traditional temples). And the importance of 3D modelling software in making his curving shapes accurately in real life.

But the main thing was how Gehry viewed architecture and art. He says he’s an architect, not an artist, but he doesn’t know where the line is between the two. The model from Renaissance times has been that the artist was also the architect (Michelangelo built buildings, Gehry mentioned). I see where he is coming from and often find myself wondering about this as well. Is architecture another form of art? It is to some extent, I mean its physical form and aesthetic can be viewed as a piece of art – a piece of sculpture. Just that you can live in this kind of sculpture. Guess this thought will come up again in the future..I”ll leave it here for now.

In the documentary he says something like:
“I think architecture is materials of construction that make spaces and its very simplistic. I mean you just put the stuff together and you make buildings. I don’t feel so precious about it. It’s like painting you just stick it on and you make it. But you have to know how to detail it, how its going to work and I’m interested in experimenting with it.”

He makes it sound so easy..almost arrogant, but I like how he sees architecture as something to experiment with. Many times I find myself being too precious with studio projects. Kinda like wanting to achieve the perfect solution from the very first go. Gotta experiment a lot more, take risks and keep making. And I’m sure along the way there will be accidents – happy accidents. Like in the works of Rauschenberg and the Dada artist; just experiment and explore. It’ll be more fun this way as well.

Oh and I just happened to notice that one of the people speaking about Gehry was the critic Kenneth Frampton – author of the Modern Architecture book we use in history class. I thought that was pretty cool..

AND ALSO! I can’t believe I didn’t have a look at the DG Bank, Pariser Platz in Berlin. I was only a few meters away from it! Was visiting Brandenburg gate..had no idea it was there..guess it was an art history/classics trip and not an architecture one sigh. OKay that’s all for now. I’ll put up some photos of Walt Disney concert hall as well, brings back memories heh.

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