The Frank Gehry build up...

Ok, expression of interest to begin with. I love Frank Gehry's buildings. Who would have thought that an architect would have fans? Most of the architects I have met, with one notable exception, have been essentially dull people. The technicalities of their profession seem to overwhelm them and drain their character.Some make up for it with mad, Philip Johnson glasses (pictured) and turtlenecks. But enough! This is about the movie I saw this afternoon in the smallest cinema I have ever been in (other than an airline seat).
The picture was called Sketches of Frank Gehry. It was the work of Sidney Pollack, actor turned director. He is a personal friend of his subject. The film is shot on DV - so I suppose it's not a film at all. But that is petty.
I was surprised by Gehry. He came across as an affable elderly man. I found it hard to believe such iconoclastic work as his could emerge without a certain level of scrappiness. Perhaps his stature in the global culture means he is reluctant to allow idiosyncracity show through in public. But maybe the friendship between Gehry and Pollack was such that his good nature was predominant.
I wanted my son to come with me to the screening, but what red-blooded teenager wants to spend a Saturday afternoon in an art theatre watching a movie about an old guy - an architect f'cryingoutloud! Now that I have seen it I wish he had come with - if only for the bit where he describes the hardships he encountered when he moved to LA with his father.
If you get the chance to see this film I recommend it. There were moments when I felt genuinely moved by his work such as the part about the place designed pro-bono as an informal space for people with cancer to retreat and reflect (Maggie's Place). Maggie was the wife of Charles Jencks, (architect, writer), she died from cancer.

"Informality, non-institutionality and a certain amount of humor and places for reflection are very important. It's a very nice place to get up and look out over the landscape. That's terribly important for the cancer sufferers, to see their illness in a context which is bigger than themselves."

Maybe the scale of the place, the cancer connection (my son's mother died of cancer when she was 29) and that it was built in Scotland (where I was born) affected me?

Or maybe great architecture, like all great art just has the power to move?

Who would have thought that I would dream of visiting a remote Spanish port town?
Bilbao is a wonder of the modern world.


  1. Great film. Nice insight into the creative mind. I'd recomend you recommend it to your students too.

    Made me wonder though, what someone who was not connected with Gehry would have done. The Scorsese Dylan doco being a good case in point.

  2. I liked that Cancer memorial building too! Saw the film in a Festival last year - mt commenst at the time were...

    Getting two old friends together to make a documentary feels like a great way to make sense of the life process.

    You get the sense that both Sydney Pollack and Frank have found a vast range to connections that celebrate life through architecture and film.

    There is an oft quoted line - "dancing about architecture" I say why not.

    There are some very funny "cameo's in this doco such as Julian "bathrobe" Schnabel.

    Would have been good to hear more from the con side of why other architects don't like the Gehry style but otherwise a very warm and concise way to get perspective on the man and his work.


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