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  • Writer's pictureyoungbin shin


Gehry house suggests the two significant point of views; the first thing is ‘A dumb little house with charm’ and the second thing is a ‘Cheap-scape architecture’. For realizing his own design purpose of the house, he bought a house described as ‘a dumb little house with charm’ in Santa Monica which is a normal middle class cottage. This classic house turned to Frank Gehry house with cheap industrial materials he attached and eventually became Cheap-scapearchitecture. When it comes to his previous work designing based on Symbolism and indicating the notion that the architecture is sculpture free from the constraint, Gehry house is one of the clear evidences showing his architectural concept. Atypical, distorted and twisted shape of architecture made of corrugated metal, chain link, plywood and glass shows the example of the Brutalism and it is novel enough for being an iconic place in the era where people are fond of using bricks and concrete. His approach tries to escape from the conventional architecture through the amusement of using different types of materials. Plus, he attempted to find new breakthrough by proposing a so called ‘weird shape’ which goes against with the existing context of the city and this was very challenging at that moment.

The reason Frank Gehry used cheap-scape in Gehry house is that he loves the movement of using man-made industrial materials which brought about the loath from both neighbours and the architectural establishment since they could not accept the ennobling of repurposed industrial materials. However, his interests toward to designing with these sort of material was not stopped by the other people because it supported him to realize the dancing look like architecture. The characteristics of this material, lightness and flexibility, make the spaces free from gravity. However, the façade of the house which was brought from backyard architecture is surely controversial and it has different value which is symbolic, disputational and provocative. It is clear that people goes against the thing they have never seen and experienced before. In this context of Gehry’s house, comparing with the artist Peter Smithsons’s work, “Patio and Pavilion” can be a good example to understand and support Gehry house better since the concept of installation is similar to each other with using cheap industrial material to architecture. The artwork of him is mentioned by many different artist including Ben Highmore in terms of using uncommon materials, according to the artist Ben Highmore, the “Patio and Pavilion” is an installation of various objects, materials, and panels but a “conglomeration of references.” For me, this is accepted as the best description for Gehry house. He described the house with following sentences in his book ‘Rough Poetry: Patio and Pavilion Revisited’ that “Enough like a house in an Algerial bidonville, enough like a shed in Bethanal Green, enough like a post-nuclear ruin, enough like a rural dwelling, enough like a smashed-up shop, enough like an ur-from dwelling. (…) However, it was also enough not like previous architectural pavilion, enough not like a celebration of consumerism.”

Frank Gehry is the architect goes against the old Modernism spoken by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe that the architecture also could be the robot and created from the factory holding its own module and regenerated in everywhere no matter what kind of characteristic the certain site has. Frank is in the same era, Post Modernism, with Robert Venturi who says that it is ridiculous to talk about architecture for only considering the functionalism. He thought that working inside of one’s office and merely imagine and draw the fantasies that is impossible to exist in the real world is not proper behavior for architects. They need to push themselves into the reality and learn the tangible meanings from there in person. When it comes to the works Mies van der Rohe have done for example Farnsworth house which got huge objections from its client and ended up being charged with the impractical plan and expensive construction fee. This is because the enti re house is made of glasses including the walls which brings about the less privacy and high energy consuming. So to speak, the Modernism at the moment was too simplified and not have any diverse dimension of thoughts, complexity, and contrast contrast. I t is the representative for the idea that Rovert does not approve due to the reasons that it is the outcome of the daydreaming of architect and not designed for users This sort of buildings leaded him to think that less is bore and sophisticated and artistic consideration should come before the merely function because complexity, mutual confrontation, symbolism, and popularity are also crucial for architecture. Therefore, his advent means that the reborn of the decoration and specific features of the certain site and point of view. Form is created to be Formed. On the other hand, Post Modernism given by Frank Gehry was different from what Robert says. There has been endless and countless argument and debates regarding the Brutalism able to be considered as Post Modernism as well. However, it is undeniable truth that it denied the fundamental concept of function-based architecture and decomposed an architecture to pursue the new opportunities and openness to change. I reached to the conclusion that the Brutalism Gehry asserted is one of the stream of the Post Modernism. Frank Gehry suggests the entirely novel spaces which is not shown through the era of Modernism. He deconstructed the strict horizontal and vertical square shape of buildings with using variety range of materials, plaster, chain, metal, and copper and so forth occasionally. This means that he brutalized not only the shape of the architecture but also the basic perception of the Modernism to show the possibility of future architecture and suggest new paradigm of it to people.

What does Symbolism work in Architecture of Post Modernism? Is this always wrong when what people see is what they expected? Since there are plenty of different ways to explain architecture based on individuals’ thoughts, this is always remained unsolved problem for me. However, Robert Venturi did not analyze this in complex way but he considered two simple divisions. In the book, ‘Learning from Las Vegas’, he mentioned ‘duck and decorated shed’. The duck, building which is selling something to do with the duck, looks exactly the same as duck which is clear symbolism. In this context, the function follows design and the literal translation of the function is designed for the actual design. Robert objects hugely to the ‘duck symbolism’ that has one dimensional interpretation of the building which diminishes the time people consuming for guessing and understanding about the function of the building. What he suggests throughout the book is that it is better to make well-decorated building with the name tag, the sign, of it so people can see what the building works for with the information given and also enjoyed the fully decorated shed. Even though building cannot speak to itself without their sign but it is able to show its function with sign. In his book, ‘Learning from Las Vegas’, he said “The Miami Beach Modern Hotel on a bleak stretch of highway in southern Delaware reminds jaded drivers of the welcome luxury of a tropical resort, persuading them, perhaps, to forgo the gracious plantation across the Virginal border called Motel Monticello. The real hotel in Miami alludes to the international stylishness of a Brazilian resort, which in turn derives from the International style of middle Corbusier. This evolution, from high source through middle source to low source took only thirty years. Today, the middle source is less interesting than its commercial adaptations. Roadside copies of [the high source] are more interesting than the real thing.” Venturi keeps making the contrast between architecture looking interesting but is actually boring, and cheap architecture that is actually interesting at the same time.

On the other hand, Frank Gehry does not always believe ‘the decorated shed’. When it comes to his work, fish in Barcelona Spain and Japan, he did not hesitate to work with Symbolism. He was designing with his own philosophy; the shape of building is able to be interpreted according to its function and philosophy. People tend to copy the design something has been existing for few decades ago so what they choose bringing back is that the ornaments from Roman period but actually he throws the question against the people’s behavior that why people does not want to go further back than Roman. Therefore, he went back to the starting point of everything, fishes, that we were all fishes before we are human being. With holding clear philosophy, his Symbolism does not look naïve anymore because if there is a crystal clear meaning and if it is not figured out at a first glance, this is not the ugly symbolism that people argue. Building can be designed with purpose and intention if it is necessary. There are possible questions could be generated regarding to Robert’s statement that why the building stayed just painted and decorated box with information sign instead of speaking out itself. For looking at the past attitude of architecture led by Robert Venturi in the era that is right after the Modernism, the understanding of that time is required.

In places where ‘trend’ matters, like in the fashion industry, the decoration, meaningless patterns and frills may outweigh everything. However, it is ashamed that if people put the greatest emphasis on the fully decorated box as the best fruits of Post-Modernism. Well ornamented building holding no meaning might be seen sophisticated and fancy but those building cannot be called as master piece since they are superficial. This is because, the packaging might be meeting people’s expectation in terms of visual satisfaction but when the visual matter overly illusions people without the actual meaning, what remains is the devastation of architecture. Probably, in the past few years, people packaged and decorated the buildings for covering its devastation which is the result of evasion happened in the past time where people pursue only wealth, fame and no virtual value. This is not difficult to link with the situation of the all luxuries of Las Vegas. It is undeniable that this ‘Las Vegas syndrome’ which pursues only fame and extravagance spreads all over the cities and affects adversely and deeply into the habitants that the conspicuous packaging is always the perfect criteria to measure good architecture. This extremely commercialized culture pushed people to create the glammed up architecture which is mixture of all luxurious things and it eventually brings about the chaotic state of architecture and fall people into confusion with the glittering visual effect. Therefore, this ends up demonstrating the beauty of architecture should be decided with the commercial decoration or an ornament which makes them stay merely glitz. At the end, the symbolism of Vegas is that the hotels of the strip and casino belt which are dominated by colored light and they are too overwhelming. The rapid urban sprawl left meaningless and fake symbolism at a city. Moreover, the generation has started changing over all industries and the vanity of the era peaks the highest point at the end which alarms it is time to move on to the another post modernism.

No one would dare to deny the fact that Post Modernism was supported by people because of the idea of its criticism regarding to the problem and limitations yielded by Modernism architecture but it started demolishing quite quickly due to the lack of the consistency. It is true that the history, local, technologies, and arts, the variety of elements experimented on the architecture based on the theories of the Post Modernism expanded the range of possibility and freed architecture from the concept of Modernism. However, it ended up forgetting about the agony in terms of the context and originality of architecture and kept decorating and wrapping the exterior of building. It turned into radical eclecticism and pursued aesthetics and hedonism with focusing only on the shape and appearance of the architecture. Instead of historical restoration, the indiscriminative borrowing of decorative elements from European classical architecture has executed by them with ignoring the unique historical context of local and public sentiment of the individual area which distorted the first concept of Post Modernism. As a result, Post Modernism architecture was worthy of various attempts at the problems and limitations of Modernism architecture, but It could not suggest the concrete directions and alternatives to architecture to solve the problem of the Modernism architecture. It seems that Post Modernism was hugely failed at that time because it was not able to settle down in architectural field by showing the solution of limitation of Modernism architecture but this failure eventually led the architecture to the current situation where people try to enhance the disadvantage of it and propose the numerous approaches answering to the new era.

Architects in the edge of Post modernism before the advent of Frank Gehry might experience self-pity. What clients want is going against their own value but pursuing only decoration and splendid for showing off themselves in this Capitalist’s world. Therefore, they end up showing the design collage of the ornaments without their belief because the preference of people, extraordinary like what Las Vegas does on its city, was clear. However, as I mentioned before, it is not 90s’ anymore, it is 21 centuries. Looking at the architecture from the different countries and obtaining the information of building was a piece of cake. The frills stiched architecture is too obvious and too common which is not interesting anymore. This makes people concern about the mass producing of hollow architecture popping in around the world without exotic culture-bases, no background and no academic research. The building created with someone’s own philosophy might sound boring and might not be looking fancy and interesting like commercially ornamented buildings but people who tired of decorated shed noticed that they should stop looking away from conventional architectures which is still designed based on modern viewpoint.

In the light of this context, the advent of Frank Gehry was huge in that moment. He did not turn back from what left behind from the world and his recreation of left over, industrial material, as an architecture is enough to be applauded. Especially his previous works in Los Angeles are considered as the greatest combination of conventional and superficial features which is similar to the traditional characteristics of Los Angeles. He puts the priority on the co-existence of tradition and reality of the time and he succeeded to materialize these notions on his architecture. Los Angeles is open to everything and unconventional with countless attempts in terms of experimenting the novel culture, technologies, and art because the history and tradition of them is not very old since it is sort of newly emerging state with immigrants. This feature meets Gehry’s expectation regarding his architectural theory which he eagers to figure out totally out of the ordinary design like sculpture-looking architecture. In Los Ageles, he kept exchanging his ideas with other artist working in different fields to get inspired by them. All the arts existing in LA, sculpture, paintings, movies, and music gives him an amazing brainwave and he ended up investing his own method creating architecture.

It is difficult to find out the consistency of Gehry’s architectures since his design language is very arbitrary and unexpectedly so it is important to trace his common language among his entire works and careers. His works have been done have been discussed between people that it came out without consistency but he depended on the coincidence and the revolutionary changes or the extemporaneousness. However, for me the changes of his works seemed to be evolved with certain direction inevitably so it is evolutionary transformation not revolutionary changes. Gehry brought the certain topics from the current moment of society and metaphorically spoke them through his works by using different materials and shapes as means to materialize his architectural theories and show them to public. Moreover, he also met a great technology to support his work to become more concrete in reality and it is well known fact that he is using CATIA which is Computer Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application. This drags the works that his own craft in small workshop of his family house out to the world. The sculpture looking design used to be impossible to build in the past is realized with the cutting edge technology of the time. With the aid of new technology, his design get more brave and creative and the material also changed to lighter and more expensive components to build up his design on the site. Unlike other conventional architects, he did not hesitate to accept and learn strange skills and this attempt compensated with him by actualizing his creative drawings and beautifully dancing physical models. Eventually, the cheap scape he created by his own hands in Santa Monica at his backyard with cheap material turned to crazier shape and more quality materials as time goes by.



Oxford Dictionaries,, December 1, 2017 Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour (1997, 1972), Learning from Las Vegas , The Messachusetts Institute of Technology. December 1, 2017. Highmore, Ben (2006), Rough Poetry: Patio and Pavilion Revisited, Oxford Art Journal Issue 29/ 2006. 269-290

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