MIT, Gehry and more questions

Blogs and the Media are awash with news and comments of MIT sueing Gehry for an ‘unbuildable design’ at the MIT Stata Center in Cambridge, Boston. (The Guardian, Building etc)
I find this fascinating and a reminder of the failures and flaws in the more traditional (or historical – traditional sounds too craft, and heritage-like), un-collaborative,  approach to construction.  The best reporting is in the Boston Globe,  which provides the contractors (Skanksa) view as well.  (Boston being an old home of mine, I try to keep informed through the Globe)  And its very illuminating.

“This is not a construction issue, never has been,” said Paul Hewins, executive vice president and area general manager of Skanska USA. He said Gehry rejected Skanska’s formal request to create a design that included soft joints and a drainage system in the amphitheater, and “we were told to proceed with the original design.”

After the amphitheater began cracking and flooding, Skanska spent “a few hundred thousand dollars” trying to resolve the problems, but, he said, “it was difficult to make the original design work.”

It also delves deeper, citing  former Boston University president John Silber, who said “It really is a disaster,” and sharply criticizes the Stata Center’s design in a new book, “Architecture of the Absurd: How ‘Genius’ Disfigured a Practical Art.”  A book that questions why the Guggenheim is always covered in scaffolding? Why the random slashes on the exterior of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, supposed to represent Berlin locations where pre-war Jews flourished, reappear, for no apparent reason, on his Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto? Or why Frank Gehry’s Strata Center, designed for MIT’s top-secret Cryptography Unit, has transparent glass walls? Not to mention why, for $442 per square foot, it doesn’t keep out the rain?


He goes on … and asks all the questions that critics dare not. He challenges architects to derive creative satisfaction from meeting their clients’ practical needs. He appeals to the reasonable public to stop supporting overpriced architecture. And most of all, he calls for responsible clients to tell the emperors of our skylines that their pretensions cannot hide the naked absurdity of their designs

Time to order a copy !

1 thought on “MIT, Gehry and more questions

  1. Nikos Salingaros

    My friends and I asked precisely those questions about absurd buildings, starting a few years ago … Look at for some online essays, or read my book “Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction” for an analysis of the craziness of contemporary architecture. The problem is rather the public and critics that support demented structures enthusiastically.

    Best wishes.



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