Gehry & West 8 in Miami

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Gehry & West 8 in Miami

Image of the New World Center, (c) Moris Moreno for The New York Times.

The Miami New Times calls the reviews “pants-wettingly good.” which strikes us as hyperbolic (if you have wet your pants over this building, you are cooler than us and we’d like to interview you).

But it’s true: the commentary on Frank Gehry’s new symphony space, and of the larger complex it sits in, the New World Center, has been overwhelmingly positive – at least in proportion to the kind of criticism Gehry’s projects generally draw out. To wit: The Times’ Nicolai Ouroussoff says it has ”rough-and-tumble appeal… a return to the kind of project that made him a revolutionary figure in American architecture in the 1980s and ’90s.”

Dutch landscape office West 8‘s contribution to the project must have something to do with the reception, as well: their 2.5 acre Soundscape is, by all accounts, elegant and engaging (the highlight maybe being a 7,000-square-foot outdoor projection screen for art installations). More on West 8, Gehry and the story, after the jump.

Images of the New World Center’s Soundscape (Lincoln Park) (c) West 8.

Image of the New World Center, (c) Moris Moreno for The New York Times.

Officially named the New World Center, the project will serve as the new home for the New World Symphony – a prestigious training orchestra that allows young musicians to develop before entering the larger world of professional orchestras. In a world where the personality of the Director has a lot to do with the success of the orchestra, Director Michael Tilson Thomas still manages to stand out. He’s been lifetime friends with Gehry, who used to babysit Thomas’ kids, and who accepted the project as a favor to Thomas. Check out this amazing video of the groundbreaking ceremony if you want to know what we mean about his personality: it includes dancing bulldozers, serious pyrotechnics and a giant projection screen of Thomas’ face:

Gehry’s contribution is being talked about as a kind of long-term “return to form.” The facade is restrained on some sides, lacking the usual bombast of his other theater or concert hall projects. Gehry himself says that this is due to the private nature of the training program: he did not set out to build the Pritzker Pavilion, Part 2. To continue that reference, the Hall looks, from certain angles, more like the squat American cousin of Renzo Piano’s similarly-latticed Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Yet, where it matters, Gehry still speaks his own language: large eggshell curves blast over the audience in the 756-seat hall, and at certain moments, flourishes of crunched metal and seamed planes still flutter.

The Miami project was laden with controversy – specifically, over what Gehry has called “politics,” in reference to the City’s request that he take on the adjacent parking garage and park project at no additional pay. Gehry’s retort, as we highlighted yesterday, was “I’m good and I deserve it.” Eventually. Gehry decided to drop the two extras, which were in turn given to other offices.

Which was an auspicious turn of events, since the Lincoln Park Soundscape is being trumpeted as the real great moment of the complex.

West 8 elaborates on their design:

“First, several pergolas embrace the park edges; their shape inspired by the puffy cumulous clouds inherent in South Florida’s tropical climate. The hand-fabricated painted aluminium structures not only provide shade but will support the spectacular blooms of bougainvillea vines; highlighting a threshold of colour at the parks points of entry. High quality artwork is equally important here, and the projection wall of the adjacent Symphony Hall building is an ideal ‘canvas’ for video projection artists - an emerging and exciting discipline within the art world. West 8 has designed a projection tower and ‘Ballet Bar’ to house the extensive multimedia equipment provided within the park. These elements provide a consistent language among the park’s unique architectural elements, providing a wide range number of possibilities for both local and international artists to present an ever-changing exhibit that would occur outside the confines of a traditional museum experience.

Image of the New World Center’s Soundscape (c) Moris Moreno for The New York Times.

Images of West 8′s Lincoln Park (c) West 8.

Images of the New World Center, (c) Moris Moreno for The New York Times.

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