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Gehry in the desert

    Driving out in Las Vegas beyond "the strip", towards the old downtown I come upon these

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health exterior piecesclick an image to enlarge it

    pieces of metal, out so long baking in the desert they curled at the edges, no?

    No. They're for the back ofFrank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health exterior pieces
    Frank Gehry's "The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health."

    --Dedicated to the conquest of Alzheimer, Huntington, Parkinson,
    ALS and all forms of memory disorders.
    The highly specialized clinical center aims at advancing research,
    early detection and treatment of neurological diseases.

    Las Vegas businessman and philanthropist Larry Ruvo planned the center after his father Lou Ruvo fought Alzheimer’s disease and then passed away in 1994. Larry Ruvo sought to create a center for compassionate care, cutting-edge treatments and high-level research into cognitive diseases.  He asked Frank Gehry for a place to entice and educate people and to celebrate life.

    It is similar to and quite different from all other buildings in Vegas.

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
    Walk around it and you see it's in two parts, as Gehry often designs. The left side mainly absorbs light, the right side reflects it in so many ways. 
    In the photo just above, on the left side is the medical clinic- the calmer, more traditional piece before the explosion on the right- it contains a tent-like space in which to hold fundraisers and other events.  The two moods bring us the calm before the storm, as in the desert.  Does this also show us the left and right sides of the brain?
    The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order.

    The right side of the brain processes more holistically, from the whole to the parts. The right-brain sees the big picture first and breaks it down into the details. It works in a more random way; and the right-brain is color sensitive.

    To oversimplify: the left-brain is more reality-based; the right-brain processes using fantasy. I wonder which side dominates in Frank Gehry?

    Gehry's work brings to mind a quote from Le Corbusier, whom Gehry calls "number one on my hit parade." Building housing in France after World War II with inexpensive materials and without highly-skilled labor-- (Gehry confronts and accepts similar issues) Le Corbusier made beauty by crashing forms and colors into one another. He said,
    I have decided to make beauty by contrast. I will find its complement and establish a play between crudity and finesse, between the dull and the intense, between precision and accident. I will make people think and reflect, this is the reason for the violent, clamorous, triumphant polychromy of the facade.
    Back to the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. The left side (which is open and operating) of white boxes with smallish vertical windows, stacked like a wedding cake, feels appropriate here in the desert. Something like SANAA's New Museum in New York mixed with Tel Aviv Bauhaus, built on sand. The Gehry stack is pleasing and calming, yet the torquing of the boxes makes it come alive and affect your emotions-- causing pleasure.

    But it's the "crazy, melted" back side of course, the part people think of as "Gehry-esque," that will get attention and photographs and that's okay because it might call attention to the cause of brain health. This building, though still in need of funding itself, may ultimately help the clinic to fund raise. In Las Vegas - famous for its neon signs - they now also use Architecture to get attention.

    I remember a quote I just read in The Architect's Newspaper from super engineer/designer Guy Nordenson:
    Frank Gehry’s relationship to engineering and construction says: the cruder the better. You visit the Disney Concert Hall and, in the office of the musical director, there’s this gigantic gusset plate that’s part of one of the trusses in the system. It’s exposed and fire-protected. One of the architects who worked on the project described it to me as a train crash in a room. It’s monumentally messy.

    Gehry's composition tells stories of a crash - and it makes you wonder what happened to cause this? Which is what the research center is all about.

    The storytelling and the movement of his architecture invoke a passage of time. While we're looking at what our eyes see we can help but wonder, what happened to cause this to be shaped this way? How long will these ruins last? Aren't we all balanced precariously between formation and decay? Gehry's over-baked composition with the contrast of two parts-- one seemingly more organic, the other of mangled metal-- recalls an Edward Weston photograph shot not far away:

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
    Edward Weston: Burned Car, Mojave Desert (1937)

    From a Philips Collection essay:
    While his earlier work emphasized magnification and fragmentation, in the 1930s and 1940s Weston often stressed the wholeness and interrelatedness of things....
    His style evolved toward looser compositions, focusing on pattern, texture, and line. (Weston foreshadows) the spatially indecipherable and gestural characteristics of abstract expressionism.
    Frank Gehry will pick up on "the spatially indecipherable and gestural characteristics of abstract expressionism" along with the methods of the painters, sculptors, collage makers and multi-media artists of his artistic era and he'll turn it all into architecture.

    Once you've made the joke about this brain health center: "Has Frank Gehry lost his mind?" you see that parts of this - even unfinished - are quite lovely, especially in the desert sun.

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

    Across the street stands this:

    Las Vegas contemporary architecturealso beautifully catching the sun; and sending more of a message of rootedness, of place. Not the less site-specific, more cosmopolitan message Gehry is after.

    The Gehry seems more real than most of what is built here and its interior will certainly be a genuine architectural experience. Still very much under construction - the interior space swirls up and around - as Gehry is so good at. Here it may recall a dust storm in the desert; under construction Xanadu meets Piranesi.

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health interior under construction

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health interior under construction

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health exterior
    That last one, that column, is sure to grow into a "tree" (like this one - below - at Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.)

    Frank Gehry Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall interior wood tree
    It's time for me to leave Vegas. (It's always time for me to leave Vegas.) As the car pulls away I see in the Gehry the movement and the dance that he seeks to inject into each of his projects. Some have sailing references, some wash up like waves to the shore. This one here in the desert - especially after the bling and the flash of the casinos - shimmers and shines and as you drive toward it these simple white cubes vibrate like a mirage. Under the hot sun we have

    Frank Gehry Las Vegas The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health mirage oasis
    a mirage crashing into an oasis. I need a drink.

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Libeskind opens his act today in Vegas

    Now in Vegas you won't just see

    No, there's a new culture on the Strip. Daniel Libeskind opens today in Vegas, starring in "Crystals" - that's the name of his Las Vegas A-list retail and entertainment complex:

    There it is in the foreground left in a photo I took about a week ago. You can't mistake the Libeskind brand for another. Libeskind's line of shops for Louis Vuitton, Roberto Cavalli, Ermenegildo Zegna, etc. - looks like he dolled up and performed cosmetic surgery on

    an old western Frontier Village.

    Daniel Libeskind, told the L.A. Times about this great mega-project in Vegas of which he is a part,
    My first impression was 'This was either completely crazy or the greatest project in the world. It turned out to be the latter."
    The Vegas mega-project opening this month is CityCenter, featuring acts by Norman Foster + Partners - the blue curving building in the upper right - sort of a "London Gherkin"-lite, but capturing the colors of the desert sky and turning them into something like cinemascope; you can also see Gensler, Kohn Pederson Fox and Associates, Rockwell Group, Rafael Vinoly and Pelli Clarke Pelli perform. The names of architecture designers like the names of handbag designers like the names of Vegas acts, it's all the same. Helmut Jahn's act actually leans towers into a "V". The all-residential "Veer Towers" - "V" for "Veer" and maybe also "Vegas"?

    Why, Jahn "sounds like" Elvis singing "Viva Las Vegas!" Oh, part of this mega-project is Viva ELVIS™, a permanent show dedicated to the icon. That's it, that's what CityCenter reminds me of! Did you see this year's season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm? The one with the Seinfeld show reunion? Seinfeld is talking about the cast and says, "I'm an icon! He's an icon! She's an icon! He's an icon!"

    Icons all around.

    It's a good joke on TV, but not a good way to plan cities. "I'm an icon! That building is an icon! Next to us is another icon! Every building here is an icon!"

    Remember Robert Venturi's sketch from "Learning from Las Vegas"

    We need a new one: "I AM AN ICON" over Libeskind's Crystals.

    CityCenter - 8.5 billion dollars, 18 million square feet, 6,000+ hotel rooms, 42 lounges, restaurants and bars, 4 spas, and almost 900 of us can live there - that's how many residences will open. Call it the largest privately funded construction project in North America. With billions of the dollars invested by our good friends at Dubai World.

    But don't worry - most of CityCenter gets a LEED Gold rating for sustainability. In the desert?

    Dubai is/was sustainable too.

    CityCenter broke ground five years ago, since then the sands have shifted under it. It went through near-bankruptcy and a myriad of legal problems. It made it through. Many projects don't. We must really want this.

    Next: a new building in Vegas that seems to be curling up like an old shoe left out in the hot desert sun. Frank Gehry does Vegas.

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