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MIT Stat CenterRecently, Frank O. Gehry has been sued by MIT for some serious issues regarding the design of the three year old Stata Center. This building is a great example of the difference between architecture and sculpture. Architecture is meant to be inhabited and used.

Sculpture is to be looked at and admired. Architecture can be so sublime as to be sculpture.

But sculpture should never become architecture.For more, read Kyle Smith’s opinion here and Adam Raymond’s here.

There has always been a debate between architecture and sculpture. Many modernist architects fell in the “architect as sculpture” camp, then created sculpture and called it architecture. Mies van der Rohe was one of the first, with his glass house, copied by Philip Johnson. Peter Eisenman has participated, but the king of them all is good old Frank O. Gehry, or FOG, as we like to affectionately refer to him.

FOG’s buildings, for the most part, are sculptural with spaces carved out, almost as an after thought “oh, yes… I now remember this is supposed to be a functioning building.” The other poster on this blog is fond of saying that FOG’s buildings lack a sense of scale. FOG could do well making paperweights in the shape of his buildings–as it they work well at any scale as sculpture.

In another article on the Boston Globe web site (available here) the contractor complains that the architect poorly detailed the building and was made aware of potential problems during construction. Gehry has countered that the client cut the budget (which went from $100 million to $300 million). We’ve worked with enough contractors to know that they follow our details or don’t. If they don’t, we can easily wash our hands of the problems “Hey! The contractor didn’t build it as designed. It’s their problem.” But if the contractor doesn’t like our detail, because they’re the first to get called when there are problems, they’ll let us know right away. They’ll also let the client know that “Hey! We built it like the architect designed it. It’s their problem.” Knowing the complexity of a Gehry building, I’m sure that there was a lot of detailing left to the contractor, and I would bet the RFI (request for information) pile on Gehry’s desk is a few feet thick.

Usually, we don’t pile on fellow architects. We love to pile on fellow architects. Especially the famous ones who design buildings of debatable merit.
(image from Reason Magazine & Mr. Raymond’s post)