Frank Gehry’s return to Toronto touches on a few of the neuroses that makes this city unique. There’s the dynamic of the successful Canadian, going abroad to conquer the world and returning to his humble origins. In Gehry’s case redesigning the first art gallery he visited and one just a few blocks away from where he lived with his grandmother. There were no hard questions from the audience, when Gehry gave a press conference at the AGO this morning for the launch of the exhibit Frank Gehry Art + Architecture (opens Feb. 18).
Coming on stage wearing a black leather Roots jacket, Gehry confessed his love for hockey, support for the men’s Canadian Hockey team in Turin. In short, reminding us, that he’s still Canadian, still one of us despite jet setting around the world, years spent living in California and being as close to a household name as architects get.
And the show? Frank Gehry Art + Architecture looks at four recent projects that Gehry completed in Berlin, Boston, Chicago and LA. Some of the large models are truly breathtaking, like the interior models of the Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA (pictured here). The show gives you some insight into the man’s thought process and creativity and it’s easy to see why his buildings have inspired a kind of fervour among city planners, architects and clients.
I was wary when I walked into the show. In fact, I’m wary about the AGO’s redesign. It’s almost as if the entire exercise of getting Gehry to design a building here in Toronto is some strange way for the city to join the list of places with Gehrys. As if we were saying, “look at us Boston, look at us LA, we’re world class, we’ve got a Gehry too.”
Yes, we admit it’s cynical. But the few minutes we got to listen to Gehry talk about this building AGO it’s pretty clear that the building has a special place in his heart. It probably did more to dispell our cynicism than almost anything else we’ve seen, heard or read about the gallery’s renovations. He talked about how he sought balance between the AGO and the old houses across the street on the north side of Dundas, how he’s striving for intimacy in the museum going experience, “an antithesis to the Met” in New York, which is palatial and overwhelming in it’s size. Gehry, it seems, strives for creative, innovative ways to place his buildings in a human context to the neighbourhoods they’re in. In short, if more architects took this much care to the buildings and the neighbourhoods they were working in maybe we wouldn’t be so insecure and actually content about our place in the world.
Frank Gehry photo borrowed from David Crow