27.9.06

Architecture as Organism

I'm attending the University of Minnesota these days, and each time I walk over the Mississippi River, along the Washington Avenue bridge, I look up and see the Frank Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum. The lumpy, wild, metallic amalgam sits right next to a set of generic, vaguely industrial red brick dorms, and the contrast couldn't be more striking.

That said, both buildings feature a self-sustaining holism, the kind of inner consistency that is not often found in playfully referential architecture that is the common currency of our day. That the Gehry and its lackluster neighbor both make a claim to some kind of internal structure is noteworthy, particularly as they each form their composition in such divergent ways.

The question for now is, in what sense can these buildings be considered organisms? Do they have a life of their own? In other words, do their internal rules of formation, the way that they claim the space around them, extend in the world in the same way that our ontogeny operates within our bodies? Does this building become a monster? Does its architect become Dr. Frankengehry?

Say "yes" and you'll be granting me quite the logical favor . But, having given some vital credit, how do we then read the fact that Gehry's building has extended its tendril past its original embodiment? What do we make of the twin bridges that form Weisman roots across Washington Avenue? All I can say is, be afraid. Be Gehry afraid.

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