In designing a building, architects must think about many things such
as the site where the building will be located, the materials to be
used in the exterior and interior of the building, the size and shape
of the spaces and, most important for Gehry, the needs and wishes
of the people who will be using the building when it is finished.
This is called the "program" for the building.
The program for the Weisman Art Museum began with Gehry considering
the needs of the University Art Museum (now called the Frederick
R. Weisman Art Museum) and the students and staff of University
of Minnesota. His attention to these needs led university officials
to choose him as the architect for the Weisman Art Museum in 1992.
It was important to the museum staff that this new building be instantly
recognizable as belonging to the world of art and a unique place
on the university campus in Minneapolis. The president of the university
told Gehry that whatever he did, "don't build another brick lump"--referring
to most of the other buildings on the campus. The museum was to
be a welcoming and accessible place for students, university staff,
and museum visitors. Gehry was interested in creating galleries
that would be beautiful, but that would not overpower the art that
is displayed there. He said, "The trick is to make galleries where
the art looks good...which is to say, not on a pedestal."
An important part of Gehry's program was the materials. Gehry
has become known for using unusual materials in his architecture.
He said, "I always have felt that architecture was about materials.
Watching my artist friends work directly with materials--the right
product is something that seems right and real and acceptable and
not contrived." For the Weisman, Gehry chose stainless steel, the
same material found in cooking utensils or kitchen sinks. Its shiny,
reflective, but extremely durable surface has given the building
its unique identity. While the west side seems to echo the rocky
bluffs of the river below, other sides of the buildings incorporate
red brick in order to connect with the buildings around it.
The west side of the building, perched on the riverbank, is a
towering, irregular, crumpled type of sculpture. Central to its
form are the many surprisingly placed windows and skylights, which
offer intriguing views into the building from the outside and bring
natural light into the galleries. From the inside, these windows
frame interesting views of the Mississippi River, downtown Minneapolis
and the university buildings.
Gehry's design for this museum won a prestigious Architecture
Design Award in 1991.
It is probably easier to talk about Gehry's architectural style
in terms of what it's not than what it is. Gehry
has moved beyond modern architecture with
its emphasis on pure geometric forms embodied by steel-and-glass
skyscrapers. However, Gehry denies being Postmodern.
Gehry does not refer to historic styles of buildings. Perhaps Gehry
could be called a deconstructionist architect
who explores ideas of chaos, breaking boundaries and multiple viewpoints.
However, Gehry prefers to not categorize his work with any style
or movement. Perhaps his approach to architecture is pointing the
way to something totally new.
Gehry's work is often more related to abstract sculpture than
to architecture. He said, "Every building is by its very nature
a sculpture. You can't help it. Sculpture is a three-dimensional
object and so is a building."
art history, this term refers to the philosophies of art made in
Europe and the United States during a period roughly from the 1860s
through the 1970s when certain artists began to take radical steps
away from traditional art in order to be deliberately different,
critical, and often dissenting from the dominant official taste.
Modern art or modernism is characterized by changing attitudes about
art, an interest in contemporary events as subjects, personal artistic
expression, and freedom from realism. Modernism can be seen as artists'
attempts to come to terms with urban, industrial, and secular society
that emerged during the 19th century in Western society.
Postmodern--A term used
to describe a diversity of styles and mediums explored by artists
beginning in the 1970s. Initially applied to architecture that reacted
to pure geometric modern styles, Post-modernism is often ornamental
and borrows from past art and architectural sytles, putting these
elements in new combinations and contexts.
art and literature, a tendency in recent work to subvert or pull
apart and examine existing conventions having to do with meaning
and individualism. Whether using language, images, or building elements,
deconstructivists raise questions about meaning, materials, forms,
and other aspects of artistic expression.
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