I’ll Have What She’s Having…


  Normally, I hesitate before expounding upon something I have not yet seen in person.  More to the point, I avoid even thinking about a building in which I have not actually been.  It’s the “Ce N’est Pas Une Pipe” thing.  It’s not a pipe, it’s a painting of a pipe.**  So to be clear, what follows is my impression of a building of which I’ve only seen photos and read reviews***.

  It’s Frank Gehry’s first skyscraper – an apartment/mixed use building at 8 Spruce St in NYC.  It is the tallest such building in the city standing some seventy-six stories and holding more than nine hundred apartments, a gym, a swimming pool, and a new public school.  The assemblage of those spaces is reportedly pleasingly functional, but the building’s allure is far greater than their sum. 

  Something immediately tingled inside me when I turned to that page, but it was Gehry’s description of his motivation that brought me full flush:  “I had one of those eureka moments, at three o’clock in the morning, when I thought of Bernini.  Michelangelo is rounder, Bernini is edgier”. Right on.

  I’m in awe of the subtle manner of Michelangelo’s graceful conveyance of form and tension in his sculpture, David for example.  It’s cool and I’ll not forget the experience of it.  But, well, when one thinks of Bernini, how could not the image of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa leap into one’s mind? 

  In a book about art and beauty Umberto Eco wrote of the expression of pain in the visage of that St Teresa.  How could he possibly have had that reaction?  He needs to see an ophthalmologist or shrink maybe.  That woman is in the throes of something grand whether the tumescence was spiritual or otherwise.

  I have been in, on, and around several Gehry projects and enjoyed those experiences.  There’s often an element of exuberance.  But this is different.  Does not that building appear to be on the verge of a shudder? 

  This might be a stretch, even for me, but the east elevation of 8 Spruce St makes me think of Katy Perry:

I might get your heart racing
In my skin tight jeans
Be your Teenage Dream tonight
Let you put your hands on me
In my skin-tight jeans
Be your Teenage Dream tonight…

*If you don’t get this allusion, that’s your problem

**cf post of April 24, 2009

***Photo at top by Richard Barnes in a review by Paul Goldberger in the 3/7/11 New Yorker.  Other photo of the building is from article by Nicolai Ouroussoff in the 3/9/11 NYT

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