January 24, 2011

Gehry's Latest in Miami Beach

The New World Center is remarkable because it defies all of the Gehry stereotypes.  Sure, it has swoopy forms, but they are mostly contained within a big, practical, rectangular box that might even be called contextual in white-stucco-happy Miami Beach. Perhaps this is not a "new" Gehry, however, but a Gehry working within the constraints of the program, site, and budget, and pleased to be doing so. One of my favorite museums is the Norton Simon in Pasadena, redesigned and updated by Gehry years ago.  It, too, defies the Gehry stereotypes (even the old ones) and is a simple, building with delightful galleries and a wonderful openness to the outdoor space that the u-shaped building surrounds.

The New World Center brings the same kind of simplicity together with the expected dynamic forms, but the building is clearly about more than just form. Gehry describes it as a "program driven building" designed to engage younger audiences with classical music.  This is no palace to music, like the Disney Hall or even Lincoln Center, but an open, inviting place with a huge glass wall and a lobby open to the public during the day. The music from concerts in the hall will be piped live into the adjacent (and lovely) park and video will also be projected onto the flat white wall that faces the park. This will be a popular destination for more than the well dressed and well funded.

Too often, architects see museum as a chance to design a cathedral.  Concert halls are similar places (see Rybczynski on this). Unlike a cathedral, which is meant to awe, the New World Symphony building inspires, but also welcomes visitors at every opportunity.

I would love to see the same balance of inspiration and accessibility applied to a museum building.

Links:  NY Times (the photo is theirs) and Miami Herald

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