Archicritics: Nine Ways Vanity Fair Loves Gehry's Exploded 'Crystal Palace'

Amy Schellenbaum


In his critique of Frank Gehry's latest deconstructed, exoskeleton'd building, Vanity Fair's Paul Goldberger unshells the controversial starchitect's Fondation Louis Vuitton in such a beautiful, intelligent way, it may be enough to make believers out of even the staunchest of Gehry-haters. Goldberger's words buoy Gehry's signature crinkled and cut appeal; after describing the Fondation Louis Vuitton—a $143M contemporary art museum that opens to the public in October—as "like a crystal palace that is in the middle of an explosion," Goldberger talks flatteringly of Gehry's "desire to tear away the façades of his buildings," which means his work often "evokes the Eiffel Tower and an ancient church." In the middle of a sparse copse of trees, Gehry got to run free with his plans to design what his "magnificent vessel symbolizing the cultural calling of France," and the result is 126,000 square feet of the jumbled up Gehry is famous for, a building Goldberger calls a "sensuous experience." Below, the best lines from the feature:

9. "This building is muscular, and it is delicate: it is a linebacker with the moves of a ballerina or, if you prefer, it is Moby-Dick with the athleticism of a sailfish."

8. "[It] looks like sails, and it looks like a boat, and it looks like a whale, and it looks like a crystal palace that is in the middle of an explosion."

7. "His building is a whole new thing, a new work of monumental public architecture that is not precisely like anything that anyone, including Frank Gehry, has done before."

6. "You could call it a 21st-century take on the Grand Palais, the wildly extravagant Beaux-Arts exhibition hall off the Champs-Élysées, and you could also say that it's Gehry's attempt to render his own Guggenheim Bilbao in glass. But even these, which get closer, miss a lot of what makes this building remarkable."

5. "He has been experimenting with curving glass for years, twisting and torquing it into lyrical, dancing shapes."

4. "It is the way Gehry usually works—for all he is identified with striking sculptural shapes, he almost never starts with them, because he wants to be sure that the functions of a building are taken care of before he starts letting his sculptural instincts run free."

3. "'You can't hang art on glass,' [Gehry] said to [Goldberger]."

2. "It is a hint of early Gehry wrapped in late Gehry, but without a whiff of nostalgia."

1. "He was struck by everything he saw, but most of all by the powerful, heavy forms of Romanesque churches and the lyrical lines of late buildings of Le Corbusier, particularly his great chapel at Ronchamp. You can see all of this in the Fondation Louis Vuitton: the strong structure, the soft curves, the whole idea that a building is a sensuous experience."

· Gehry's Paris Coup [Vanity Fair]
· All Frank Gehry posts [Curbed National]