Are You Experienced?

Two issues ago, we covered the museum market, and between then and now, I actually got out to visit a few institutions, including the Experience Music Project (EXP) in Seattle. The building, for those unaware, is another of Frank Gehry's undulating, metal-clad creations. This one's even multi-colored! Now I've never been a big Gehry fan—I was basically of the opinion that he came up with ...

08/01/2003


Two issues ago, we covered the museum market, and between then and now, I actually got out to visit a few institutions, including the Experience Music Project (EXP) in Seattle. The building, for those unaware, is another of Frank Gehry's undulating, metal-clad creations. This one's even multi-colored! Now I've never been a big Gehry fan—I was basically of the opinion that he came up with one great idea and has simply sold the same horse to several gullible, Nouveau Culture-craving cities. That being said, experiencing Gehry's creation up close and personal was an eye- and mind-opening experience. While extremely tacky-looking in photographs, in person, the colors are in complete harmony with the carnival-like surroundings at the foot of the Space Needle (which, in contrast, is very disappointing in person). Inside, Gehry's crazy ceilings are totally appropriate for a museum dedicated to rock 'n' roll and Seattle's psychedelic son, Jimi Hendrix. What was even cooler, however, was the MP3 player the museum provided, which allowed users to hear all the different music, stories and sounds archived in the museum. As Kathyrn Rospond reported in her museum piece, this sort of thing really makes a big difference. On an aside, I also recently got a peek at the new Gehry-designed outdoor theater going up in Chicago. Again, from a visual, ground-level impact, it's very cool. I also tip my hat to the iron workers and structural engineers who make these forms reality.

Back to EXP. I was in Seattle as part of a of various building controls manufacturers in the region. Part of the EXP experience is the aforementioned homage to Hendrix. Like an expressionist painter, the guitarist completely bent his instrument's sound through a series of foot-operated effects controls. In fact, he took what were considered technical problems—feedback, fuzz, distortion, etc.—and turned them into an integral part of his music. This got me to thinking of the masters of electronic controls devices in our industry. I'd love to hear from you, the readers, any stories of how you've milked some special effects out the controls you've put in some of your building projects, or how you turned a technical problem into music.

On an unrelated matter, but relevant to Seattle, last month I ranted about how cities are in danger of losing grand architecture with the possible demise of the super high-rise. Touring Seattle's historic Pioneer Square area confirmed this concern. Many of the buildings in the area—typical of cities across the country—are brick or stone structures of not more than a few stories, but are ornately detailed with great terra cotta work, banding and more. If the demands of the market dictate that our buildings are going to be smaller, so be it. But let's take a lesson from the past—or our friend Mr. Gehry—and bring back buildings that make us feel good when we look at them.





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