Thursday, March 10, 2005

Frank Gehry and totally impractical designs

Why does everyone like Frank Gehry's work? Personally, being from Seattle, I thought the Experience Music Project (EMP) building was just ok. I went to the place only once and it was very unwelcoming with concrete floors and spartan utility. Then, when I came to Cleveland my Alma Mater decided to get a Frank Gehry designed business school. I spent a lot of time in this building taking classes and I can easily say that as interesting as the outside looks - it is completely impractical and crap-tacular in the inside. This is a business school - and it is wall to wall concrete and spartan design again. There are no rugs, there are no areas where students can congregate and mingle. There is a creepy feeling of a penal institution and a thoughts that Frank might actually have been drunk when he designed the building:

  • To Navigate the entire 3rd floor, you would have to get in an elevator from the 3rd, bring it back down to the 1st, get out and walk the length of the building and then get in another bank of elevators to go back up to the 3rd floor. I mean, why would anyone think that a 3rd floor should be continuous? Let me tell you the joy of trying to find room 311A - you can see it, but you can can't get to it.
  • Bathrooms, or more precisely the lack thereof. So, there are like 2 bathrooms that are accessible to most people in the building and only 1 of them has more than 1 toilet. Brilliant! I am sure everyone enjoys queuing up outside the bathroom like a bunch of girls at a downtown nightclub.
  • To be a "modern" classroom, we should have huge server racks installed into each lecture hall. I mean, listening to the roar of what sounds like angry custodians armed with Dustbusters is conducive to concentration for every student.
  • Snow... news flash, it snows in Cleveland occasionally. Designing a roof that tends to hold snow only long enough to gain critical mass and send an icy wall of white death from above is generally not in the public's best interest. I loved seeing the avalanches cascade down the side of the building in a low rumble reverberating inside. Good times... Good times.
  • Cold... so like, every now and then (5 out of 12 months) it is friggin freezing in Cleveland. Concrete is a fantastic choice of building materials - if you want a swimming pool. Yes, the freezing temperatures and lack of drains in the building caused major flooding when the not-so-properly insulated pipes burst and wiped out much of the basement level in the building... not once, but at least 2 (maybe 3) times. I got a kick out of dozens and dozens of computers up on the 1st floor drying out with signs on the "DO NOT PLUG IN!!". Great place for the computer lab...
It came as no shock to me to see this story the other day highlighting his other absurdity down in CA. Good grief, part of good design is an understanding of where it will be used. Frank needs to quit focusing on trying to be 'unique' (or weird) and get back to the basics - like creating a building that is actually useful for something other than providing lots of neat places to hide from bullets.
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