Imagine: Frank Gehry, BBC1 - TV review: An architectural superstar or "the Kim Kardashian of architecture"?

The most telling part of this 75-minute documentary was the views of the builders themselves

Ellen E. Jones
Tuesday 23 June 2015 20:23
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Imagine: Frank Gehry
Imagine: Frank Gehry

One answer to your money troubles is to persuade the subject of this week's Imagine to design a building in the locality.

Frank Gehry's works typically have the effect of raising property prices for miles around and it's hoped his latest, for the University of Technology will do just that in Sydney. He's an architectural superstar, and, like all superstars, he has his detractors. Among them were Elizabeth Farrelly, a critic at the Sydney Morning Herald, who called him "the Kim Kardashian of architecture". Certainly both are famous for their curves.

Judging from the early sketches and squiggles glimpsed here, designing buildings like the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is the easy bit. It's when it comes to actually building them that things get tricky. For that reason, the most telling part of this 75-minute documentary was not Alan Yentob's gentle questioning of 86-year-old Gehry, the black-and-white photos of a hardscrabble childhood in Depression-era Toronto, or even the critics' cutting remarks.

It was the views of the builders themselves, canvassed on site. "I'm just thinking what he was smoking…?" said one near the start of construction. Once the new building was completed, however, it all its "crumpled paper bag" glory, they were among his most ardent fans: "This job is the first job that I've really enjoyed coming to work…. we're really getting to show off our skills here." Bricklayer Anthony "Tone" Hilton even got a full-sleeve tattoo of the earthquake-pattern walls in Gehry's honour.

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