Is it Art?

And now for something completely different.

Purists would argue that architecture is not art. I suppose that’s technically true, and most architects are technicians, not artists. But there are some, rare and special, who change the landscape with their visions. Who change the very way we see what a building can be, and what the word “construction” can mean.

And of course many people hate these buildings.

But to me, they are endlessly fascinating. They dance.

gehry dancing house prague

This is Frank Gehry’s “Dancing House,” built in 1996 in Prague. It is fondly known as Fred and Ginger, for those two fine dancers who are represented by the structures on the corner (Ginger Rogers on the left, wearing the dress and, naturally, dancing backwards on heels). The modern apartment house is in the historic part of Prague and has become an international destination, as have most of Mr. Gehry’s iconic buildings.

Many of his large structures, for example the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain, are twisting curves of shiny steel, soaring overhead in impossible shapes. They are whimsical, playful, and yet, workable spaces for the activities that take place inside the shell. They are magical; moving as light changes, colors shift across the surface and emanate from within, disappearing at one moment only to reappear, massive, the next.

New York by Gehry, a 76-story apartment building on Spruce Street, appears almost like a wrinkled piece of foil at first glance, almost delicate and subtle compared to his usual attention-seeking designs. Look closer: the actual design is so clever that the scope of its effect is the magic part. Ta-da!

We need more of these “fun” buildings in a city that has become far too vertical and boring; I want Fred and Ginger to take a turn down Broadway and perhaps bring us a swirling concert hall, or even a wacky medical venue such as the Center for Brain Health at the Cleveland Clinic Las Vegas.  How about seducing people’s with some “street art” that will get their toes tapping, their synapses crackling, and their hearts filled with love for a new New York?

Architecture. It’s art, with a new vision for urban life… and the science to make it real.

(To see these buildings, and others, by Frank Gehry, click here.)

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