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Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao – Frank Gehry

Architecture has always been surrounded by arbitrariness. The corinthian capital is the first step towards chance in western architecture. Thanks to the good eye of Callimachus, a completely arbitrary form has become an accepted norm. Moneo insists that a good part of the history of architecture can be understood as architects’ efforts to forget that original sin.

Even Gaudí makes an effort in order to distance his forms from chance. Form is dictated and explained from the structure. All suspicion of chance is dissolved by the logic of the structure. But maybe le Corbusier’s 5 principles of modern architecture is the clearest manifest against arbitrariness. Before composition there is the function.

Frank Gehry’s first projects are also faithful to modern architecture. But there is no doubt that his latest work is widely known by its arbitrary form.

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Frank Gehry’s own House

When remodelling his own house, the architect starts from an irrelevant preexistence and composes volumes oblivious to their geometry. The freshness of this mechanism and the lack of prejudices towards materials is the first step towards a complete acceptance of the arbitrary form.

The link between the artist Hans Hollein and Frank Gehry’s work is almost obvious. Everything is Architecture. But Gehry makes one step forward. liberating himself even from the forms unrelated to architecture. The form comes from the architect’s drive and has no structural nor typological motive.

It would be unfair to say that architecture today is arbitrary. Most architects are not like Gehry, and he makes it clear: “Let me tell you one thing. In the world we live in, 98 percent of what gets built and designed today is pure shit,” responded Gehry after raising his middle finger to a question about his architecture and spectacle “There’s no sense of design nor respect for humanity or anything. They’re bad buildings and that’s it.”

Nevertheless, the vast majority of architects today do not believe that form should arbitrary. To quote the Spanish architect Alberto Campo Baeza: “The oblivion of reason, the lack of reasons and a coherent idea, capable of generating and sustaining, makes Architecture be, sometimes, many times, monstrous. Intuition as an instrument of a creator is not something blind, mystical or vague. It is an accurate distillation of profound knowledge. 

An architect’s intuition must not be that of a sorcerer who makes decisions with arbitrariness wrapped with magic. It must that of the old physician who, combining knowledge and experience, succeeds in his diagnosis.”

Even 25 centuries after Callimachus’ first step towards arbitrariness, architecture can still be understood as an effort for the original sin to be forgotten.

Sources:

Rafael Moneo’s speech in the Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando on January the 16th 2005.

Frank Gehry gives journalist the finger. – Article published on TheGuardian.com on the 24th of October of 2014. 

La Idea Construida, la Arquitectura a la luz de las palabras – Alberto Campo Baeza