What Frank Gehry did next

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The Independent Culture
With The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the architect Frank Gehry achieved exactly what its directors asked of him. The most talked about building of the year (right) has captured our imagination and turned the Basque capital into the holiday destination for the end of the millennium. But, according to Gehry, the Guggenheim is a mere sketch of what he had in mind.

Had he been given five more years to perfect his vision, he says, we would have seen a real monument to 20th-century daring design. As it stands, this breathtaking architectural landmark isn't quite what he was after. The rest of the world, though, may not agree.

His latest masterpiece, plans for which have just been unveiled, is the "Experience Music Project" in Seattle, a 130,000 sq ft museum of music scheduled to open in the city centre in time for the millennium. Gehry's brief was to provide the physical outline of a "hands-on", "interactive", "multimedia", "interpretive" museum, research lab and concert hall dedicated to grunge, blues and rock. This time, if his model (above) is anything to go by, he's let the energy of contemporary music direct the flow of his ideas.

What he's come up with is a fairground ride of a building constructed from unconventional materials - blue, red and gold stainless steel, terrazzo and glazed tiles. "Casper the friendly ghost" features as a window, and Jimmy Hendrix's guitar informs the overall structure, which at certain points seems to crumple under the weight of architectural ideas and musical associations. The EMP, intended to reflect music as a living art form, will contain 35,000 sq ft of exhibition space, rooms equipped with musical instruments for jamming sessions, a concert hall, a cafe, a shop, classrooms and archives.

"Here you'll find the stairway to heaven, the roomful of blues, the wall of sound, and the bridge over troubled waters, under the boardwalk. Up on the roof, down in the groove. It's granny's pad and heartbreak hotel and the red house over yonder. All rock'n'rolled into one," says Gehry.

Until then, the earth is flying, and the men in hard hats are paving the way for Gehry's latest statement.

LILIAN PIZZICHINI

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