By OMA © All rights reserved
27 November 2013 - 19 February 2014
Palais d'I&e’na, Paris
The exhibition "Auguste Perret, Huit Chefs d'oeuvre !/? - Architectures du b&e’ton arm&e’" [Auguste Perret: Eight masterpieces!/? - Reinforced Concrete Buildings] is organised by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC) in collaboration with Fondazione Prada at the Palais d'I&e’na - ESEC headquarters.
For this tribute to one of the most inspiring architectural careers of the 20th-Century, Joseph Abram, the scientific curator - together with his team from the National School of Architecture in Nancy - is responsible for the theoretical and historical consistency of the project. The architectural office OMA AMO, under the direction of Rem Koolhaas, the artistic curator, is in charge of the exhibition design as well as the contemporary contributions. OMA AMO also conceived the cultural events program.
The son of a stonemason who had taken part in the Paris Commune uprising in 1871, Auguste Perret (1874-1954) played a core part in defining a specific aesthetic for reinforced concrete. His entire career was devoted to a rigorous practice of architecture based on innovative strategies that combined intellect, design and construction into a powerful creative mechanism that generated an impressive number of masterpieces. His talent received due recognition in 2005 when part of his oeuvre was added to the World Heritage List.
While several exhibitions have been dedicated to Auguste Perret, this exhibition has the ambitious goal to share with a wider audience the intimacy of a creative process that is amongst the highest in the history of architecture.
The presentation of this major event at the Palais d'I&e’na reflects the ESEC's policy of hosting cultural and artistic projects as a stimulus for public dialogue, also promoted by many events and debates organized within the institution. A cultural programme will run during the exhibition dedicated to Auguste Perret: the Palais will be opening its doors to the public and will host talks, debates, workshops, concerts and screenings in the hemicycle.
http://www.expositionperret.fr/ | #expoperret to follow the exhibiton on Twitter
The exhibition is open daily from 27 November 2013 to 19 February 2014 (11am - 6pm)
Address: Palais d'I&e’na, ESEC headquarters | 9 place d'I&e’na - 75016 Paris
Frank Gehry in front of his Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT
He is grouchy, says a man who knows Frank Gehry well, when I ask him what to expect of my meeting with the architect. Grouchy, but sweet. I bear those words in mind as I am introduced to Gehry in the office of his Los Angeles studio, and explain in a super-polite way my role as the FT’s arts writer.
“So you know nothing about architecture?” he responds in a tone that does not, in all honesty, exude sweetness. I’ve picked up a few nuggets along the way, I say. “You are not going to call me a fucking ‘starchitect’? I hate that.” Objection received loud and clear, I reply.
Gehry, 84, is an architect of no little repute, whose achievements can safely be described as stellar. But his feelings over that seemingly harmless little word encapsulate a broader, and pointed, debate over his position in the pantheon of contemporary architects.
Gehry’s spectacular buildings – the most famous being the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles – are said by his critics to overwhelm the environment in which they appear. His signature style – call it “metallic-sensual” for short – is, they say, repetitive and disrespectful of local context. He designs buildings by scrunching up pieces of paper. He enjoys his celebrity, and his patrons enjoy the association with what has become one of the world’s leading cultural brands. Need a new museum? Call Frank Owen Gehry on the Starchitect Hotline. Colour supplement coverage and urban regeneration guaranteed, cultural credibility cemented.
All of those criticisms have always struck me as misguided, or malicious, or just plain daft. (The scrunching of the paper appeared as a joke in Gehry’s cameo on The Simpsons.) But that loaded epithet “starchitect” evidently stings.
“You know, journalists invented it, and now they use it to damn us,” he continues in his defensive overture to our talk. I love his architecture, I say with honesty, and in the hope that the discordant theme will blow over. I have loved it ever since I was assigned to cover the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in the autumn of 1997, and caught a glimpse of its gleaming, swishy elegance from the end of an insalubrious back street. It was the first time I had ever seen culture so clearly signposting the future: new century arriving fast, step right this way.
Mention of the Guggenheim has a mellowing effect. “Somebody told me, a political type, that that building helped to change the political climate in the Basque country,” says Gehry. “They wanted me to do the same for their country!” he says with a little laugh. (He won’t reveal which country.) “Once it was built, this separatist movement that was trying to find its own identity suddenly had its own icon. There was something to be positive about that wasn’t there before. That’s what I was told.” He sounds slightly embarrassed by the magnitude of the claim. “I never thought of it like that.”
He also had no idea that the “Bilbao effect” would become a global template for regeneration-through-culture. “I remember all these meetings, where people would talk about their hopes for a commercial uplift,” he recalls. “But it didn’t register as a possibility with me. I thought that these guys believed in the tooth fairy if they thought a building could do that.”
Gehry reels off the results of the tooth fairy’s intervention: hundreds of millions of euros of economic activity in the city, some 80 per cent of it related to the museum, which attracts about 1m visitors a year. “Then there is the social impact. Before the building, kids graduated from high school and left. Now there is a high enrolment in architecture schools.” A pause for comic effect. “I’m not sure that’s a great thing to have happened!”
Urban pride through architecture: it’s not such a novel idea, he says. “If you live in Greece, you are proud of the Parthenon, if you live in New York you are proud of the Chrysler Building. Here in LA we have the ‘Hollywood’ sign.” This is delivered so drily that I almost think he means it, until he gives himself away with another laugh.
What LA does have is the Disney Concert Hall, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month. The building, widely praised for its acoustic fidelity, is improbably sparking its own Bilbao effect, helping to revive the city’s infamously nondescript downtown district. The hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic, whose president and chief executive Deborah Borda enthuses over Gehry’s intervention. “You can’t walk into this building without seeing an emblem of all that is right with this city,” she tells me as she shows me around. “When I saw people taking wedding pictures outside the building, I knew it had imprinted itself.”