Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

When Te Papa was built in the late 1980s the spectre of Frank Gehry hung over the result. At Ian Athfield's invitation Gehry had been part of a proposal for the building but it didn’t make the final cut. That Gehry went on to deliver the hugely acclaimed Guggeheim Museum at Bilbao has always encouraged NZ critics to wave the we-could-have-had-that stick. It was indeed a great period for him. We saw another wonderful building that would have been in Gehry’s mind when he was thinking about Te Papa. This one is the stunning University of Toledo Art Building attached to the neo classical Toledo Art Museum. Often such co-locations are riddled with corny ‘references’ to the original building in terms of form and decoration, but not this time. Gehry has chosen to see the art museum as what Billy Apple would call ‘a given’ and responded with a tumbling mid-Western fort that updates the columned treasure chest metaphor. More recently the Japanese team SANAA have added a brilliant glassed in courtyard. The addition is so seamless we assumed it was part of the Gehry original and only learned later of SANAA’s role. Perhaps SANAA could come over and work with Te Papa #daydreambeliever.