Frank Gehry has always taken inspiration from art and sculpture, and in the early years of his practice designed a number of houses and projects for artists. For this development, Gehry was approached by a local resident and developer, who bought the old Edgemar Farms property, including warehouses and office building, with a view to turning the site into a new type of local shopping plaza with an Arts Museum at its centre.
Gehry had explored the idea of an abstracted ‘village’ in several previous projects like the Loyola Law School, 1981-84; Norton House, 1983-84; and the Wosk Penthouse, 1982-84; amongst many others, and with Edgemar Gehry once again created a composition of elements that could equally be read as abstracted village or sculptural composition. There are a series of smart urban moves where the separate buildings maintain a relationship to the existing street frontage while creating multiple sightlines into and out of the central courtyard space, and between each of the built elements. The curved wall in particular, assists in drawing people into the centre.
It seemed to me that Gehry was both exploring intelligent ideas about spatial relationships while also having fun in showing how such a plaza project could be done in a less conventional manner. For example, the exterior circulation stairs are extremely practical and might have appeared a very ordinary element on the street façade, but Gehry turns them into a lively sculptural composition of chunky galvanised metal.
The main cladding material for the whole building is galvanised metal sheeting (combined with render, tiles and glass) which was part of Gehry’s inexpensive, durable palette, but also appears to reference the former industrial use of the site.
One of Gehry’s signature materials of the time was chain-link fencing, which was used sparingly in this project, but in a double-layer as a partial veil around the lift-core, elevating it into a sculpture, that itself contains a sculpture within.
The development is capped with 3 different ‘tower’ elements. These frame views of the sky, and of the building itself, and act as sculptural signifiers for the site, entirely appropriate for an Art Museum development.
Architect: Frank Gehry
Photographer: Stephen Varady (scans from slides)
Map: Edgemar Map
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