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Creativity can be a positive response to various constraints
Affected by the impact of painting and pop art that people's life is not a fixed thing, the art is not stereotypes but are volatile, Frank O. Gehry transplanted this idea into the creation of architecture. Facing the building with the attitude of painting art, he had become intrigued with the unfinished houses sprouting up in suburban LA—their raw balloon structure interested him more than surfaces that could be eventually taken over them. Painter's original goal means to record the beautiful memory or to present his own inner world spirit through painting which is the same in demonstrate of unfinished houses—the raw framing conveyed a scene of immediacy and texture, like preparatory brushstrokes underlying a completed painting. Meanwhile, it is plausible to think of the house as a sculpture from Gehry. With the combination of painter and sculptor, he treated each space as an empty container sculpture, added light and air which irradiate and convect the environment. "The current art scene is stagnant in more nostalgia than forward-looking, It is an important event that honors Frank Gehry because of the climate of innovation that prevailed in the ancient times." says The Pritzker Prize's in 1989. "For many times when people talk about creativity, the Architects House in Santa Monica should be in the conversation. Therefore, the architect is a creator, he accepted the aesthetic sense of pop artists, which was in line with personal memory of environmental experience and challenge of the daily culture icon. Therefore, the space in Gehry 's Architects House is like the free space surrounded by nature and art, and the environment is used to educate life—Creativity can be a positive response to various constraints.

The impression of Ghery ‘s work is that he seduces the imagination and transcends nationality, geographical boundary, aesthetic status. Gehry’s work are an expression of the human spirit underlying within its skin and reacting to the world around it. There are three stages that could roughly conclude Gehry’s work process. Gehry’s buildings are powerfull essays in geometric form and materials, and from an aesthetic standpoint they are among the most profound and brilliant work of architecture at our time.(1)

1. California modernism movement

©photo snapped by Julius Shulman(1910-2009)

By the late 1940s, Southern California was a hitting place with the dream to reshape the prevailing style of Spanish-style haciendas, American colonials, and bungalows. The seeds of Modernism was planted in the 1920s when architects such as Richard Neutra (1892-1970) and R.M.Schindler (1887-1953) fled to Europe and settled in Southern California. They brought with them the International style whose architecture shape is a box-shaped structure with glass and concrete, free flowing interiors and avoid decoration.

After the war, John Entenza (1906-1984), who was the editor of Arts+Architecture magazine, picked up the Modernism as a weapon to hit the ground of growing middle class American family. The advertisement of houses was about its comfortable, cost-effective design that was easy to build, easier to live in, and last but not least is fashionable. To realize these ideas, Entenza and Arts+Architects sponsored the Case Study program—the design and construction of some 36 houses as samples at the hills and canyons around Los Angeles. Leading architects at that time were invited to design the contemporary house that could be a showcase and replica across the country. The widespread Modernism boom however never came true, but the influence of the contemporary international style in the suburban house has lingered for the next 20 years.


2. Life experience and experimental practices

The atmosphere in architecture field in 1966 was still in pre-computer era, architecture was a business which was more focused on predictability. So Gehry divided his work into two part: one is nine-to-five business route, another is experiment.

2.1 pop art friends

©Rober Rauschenberg monogram-1955-59

As early as 1961, Gehry visited art galleries around Santa Monica and Venice. He made friends with controversial artists like Ed Kienholz, Billy Al Bengston, Ken Price, Robert Irwin, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg and Larry Bell.

They were rebelling against the prevailing notion of art and developing different approaches in the use of material. For example, Robert Rauschenberg hunted in the junk yards of Los Angeles to seartch for bed frames, mannequins that had been thrown away after their life span limit. He combined the material of daily use into copper sculpture which counterpoint to the mainstream culture.Hanging around with pop artists, he became pop artists. He who stays near ink gets stained for he had more chance to get to the new client provided by his friends to full fill his sideline experimental practice.

2.2Meaningful thoughts transcends material

Co-operating everyday culture icons and found objects into something unexpected meaningful is the ultimate spirit in pop art. Gehry was introduced to New York art scene by his friends. Step by step, he developed his own creative thinking in how to use material that seems without value. The material didn’t matter, but how you used them did. The material had been ignored or rendered invisible by mainstream culture came to represent what a society value as much as what it was trying to hide. Although he couldn’t use stuffed goats or old tires in his building envelope, he could still be free to improvise with corrugated material, ply wood, chain-link fencing, etc.


3. Architects House in Santa Monica

In 1977, Gehry and his wife bought a small house he called it “dumb little house with charm”, sensitive to the growing frustration at work, he was encouraged by his wife to use this residence as a kind of experimental workshop for his own design. The idea excited him and the results has become known as architects house in Santa Monica.

3.1 To improve the quality of dwelling

As for the aim of transforming the house into a dwelling experimental house, the first consider of the function should match the family needs of daily life care. The house was almost left without change except for some additions, cut in and exposed of the structural material. In order to make an entrance, Gehry used chain-link fencing to shape a small courtyard with four additional staircase in ply wood and raw medal material. He borrowed the experience from the village of forms project, which was to break down a project into several different parts while could also serve as harmonious function in its integrated form. Facing the entrance, right hand is the additional indoor-outdoor kitchen, which was flooded with natural light from tiled-glass cube which view from the outside and created the feeling of being inside. The quality of the space in the kitchen is splendid, alive with mystery and magic cathedral. This sense of wonder continued as you moved through the first floor which provided a breathtaking frame for the towering trees outside. Gehry has refinished some walls with plasterboard and stripped down others to expose the framing, beams, wood lathe, and joints. Here and there, he had retained whole chunks of the previous house, such as the traditional molding around the set windows overlooking the new kitchen.

When he added a roof over this space, it became an “addition” to the old house and created a new, confusing space: the dinning room and kitchen now occupied former outdoor space, including the original windows and pink siding.

On the second floor, in order to open up the room into what previously been an attic, Ghery knocked out the ceiling of the master bed room which resulted in a vault of void exposed its framing and thus created the feel of a spacious tree house, indirectly lit by large square clerestory windows cut into both side of the house.

3.2 To add meaning to the art work

Ghery began the project with the aim to experiment his pop art spirit in his resident house. When talking about playing with material of abandoned and ignored, Gehry had already collected enough experience and encouragement. He began the project by opening up the coverage of  1920s floorplan. He wrapped an 800-foot-long, L-shaped addition made out of mundane corrugated metal, raw framing, and plywood two by four around the existing house, thus making the Southern California tradition of indoor-outdoor living. Chain link fencing decorated the second story like a little league backstop gone haywire. By wrapping the perimeter of the lot with construction materials and leaving the original house as it was, including the asphalt drive way which became the floor of the new kitchen. Gehry created a new space between the property lines and made use of the negative outdoor space into functional indoor element. The Gehry’s residence is an experience that alternately surprises, delights , and alarms viewers. Gehry had transformed the small, undistinguished bungalow into a controversial work of art that gave the appearance of being unfinished—it is the idea from his own aesthetic point of view and life experience, it is a pop art work that underlying the fantasy of an unfinished painting questioning about the delicate middle class life in America. The house itself is a proof of Gehry’s previous belief—the material you use didn’t matter, how you transform the material into something unexpected and meaningful did matter.


4. Summary

When we consider intervention in historical buildings there are two preface attitudes, one is represented by John Ruskin, the conservation of old memory in historical building, which is to say architects should learn to put the hands in the pocket, it is impossible as impossible to raise the dead that we can’t deceive ourselves to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture. On the other hand, the attitude is creative restoration, which is widely influenced by French architect Violet Le Duc, we should have our own historical and aesthetic point of view when we face an old building and transform it as a connect bridge through old time and new generation.”The space where we are going to live in the next decades mainly has already been built. The theme we should deal with now is to give sense and future to the territories and the existing structures through the planning of continuous transformations. To approach the complexity of contemporary territories and societies, where we have difficulties in connecting each constituent element to the others, this planning should be initially guided by the understanding of the simple relations: for example, we should try to distinguish what is ‘hard’ and what is ‘malleable’, modifiable in its features and physical characters, its functions, its relationships with other objects, and in its overall sense.”(2) That is to say when we intervene with some part  of the old building where the historical value is less important than the aesthetic value, creativity could been a positive response to the various of constraints.

note:(1)Quoted from Paul Goldberger, The New York Times, 1989.

(2)Bernardo Secchi, «Le condizioni sono cambiate», in Architettura come modificazione, Casabella, n. 498-499, 1984.


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