Seeking: Negative reviews of something universally wonderful

gehry_disneyconcerthall.jpgPrior to this week, I had always (naively, I suppose) thought the world of architectural criticism was filled with wild arguments between opposing camps of urban theory and clashes between supporters of different eras of architectural history. I salaciously imagined elderly geezers hurling wine goblets at one another as they verbally tore apart Frank Lloyd Wright‘s famed wooded house in Pennsylvania, or young M.A.-thesis-seeking neo-hipsters engulfing themselves in smoke and intellectual detritus as they bitterly debated the detriments and merits of Calatrava‘s bridges.
I was so, so wrong. Apparently, architectural critics can be in agreement, and about uber-post-post-postmodernist Frank Gehry, no less (who burst into the cultural limelight with his somewhat psychotic, but ever-so-fluid Guggenheim Bilbao museum). Everyone, from the San Francisco Chronicle to Slate to the New York Times to, well, the somewhat predictable cheers of the Los Angeles Times, is damned-near raving about this thing: its innovative acoustics, its stately presence, its compelling framing of Los Angeles’ downtown.
“A Wonder of Sound and Magic,” proclaims L.A.’s local paper. “Exuberant” and “a triumph,” coos Slate. “Shimmering” and “undulating,” proffers the Times’ Bernie Weinraub. A “grand pirouette of swooping stainless steel facades and billowing curves,” ejaculates the Chronicle in San Francisco.
And even I think I love it, and I’ve always tried so very hard to be contrarian. Please, someone, help me out and verbally rip this metallic masterpiece apart; shred its bold reinvention of concert-hall acoustics, excoriate its majestic manifestation of sound and space. Pleeeeeeease. Pretend we’re discussing Richard Meier’s ghastly marble Getty Center in Brentwood, if you must — just let the decimation begin!
(Past discussions on blurbs from low culture)

8 replies on “Seeking: Negative reviews of something universally wonderful”

This piece is actually about the Bilbao, but I think the sentiment (if we can call it sentiment) transposes well.

The Los Angeles newsblog L.A. Observed documented a spat between Gehry and local architecture critic Sam Hall Kaplan, stemming from Kaplan writing a negative review of the hall. The L.A. Times subsequently featured an article about rumblings that Disney Hall might not be so universally loved after all.
Gehry subsequently confronted Kaplan and told him to fuck off.

I can’t speak to the L.A. thing, but that EMP building in Seattle is seriously stoopid. And yucky.

I admit that I kinda like the Disney but for the cryptonazi name associations. I haven’t been to a show there yet, but I have seen it up close and watched it go up in exxxxcruciating sloooow motion and only about $1Billion over budget. But I like it in the way I like a good graffito. I don’t think that makes it good architecture. I suppose I’m not the first to observe this but old Frank seems to be in a rut with this stainless steel thing. I think he got the idea from a speedboat craze in the 70’s. Donzi I think had a really swoopy brushed stainless hull. (Donzi, Disney?) Dinsey looks like Bilbao and also like the Eli Broad house and apparently like 67 Gehry works in progress. All of which, whatever their sculptural power, are monuments to wasted fabrication effort and space. Like the 61 Buick disc-sanded to the steel and blown up on acid. Of course that might be a comment on art in general, But Schopenauer wouldn’t approve.

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