Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

So, who designed this beautiful amphitheater?
Wait. Frank Gehry?
Our Frank Gehry?
This Frank Gehry?


When the city first determined that a new pavilion should be built, the commission was supposed to go to Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. The original pavilion design was much more modest than the structure that was eventually built, with a smaller shell structure and speakers affixed to poles interspersed throughout the seating area. However, two factors led to the cancellation of the original plans. First, the project's scope changed as a result of additional funds raised by John H. Bryan, former CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation. The second factor was the intervention of the Pritzker family as potential donors. Unimpressed with the pavilion's original design, Cindy Pritzker "mandated that Frank Gehry be involved in its re-design". Jay Pritzker, a prominent Chicago businessman, had died in January 1999; his family own several businesses, including Hyatt Hotels. Jay and Cindy Pritzker had founded the Pritzker Prize in architecture in 1979, and the Pritzker family's Hyatt Foundation continues to award it annually. Architect Frank Gehry had received the Pritzker Prize in 1989. See more. (Bolded words mine)

So Frank Gehry was brought in after the orginal design was deemed unimpressive. Sound familiar?

Some people around Columbia seem to think that doing this sort of thing is a crime. They'll tell you that Cy Paumier is this only person who has the right to design our park. Actually, CA has the right to choose the best design for the park. Just as Chicago did when they chose to go with Frank Gehry.

Why Frank Gehry?

At the time, the Chicago Tribune dubbed Gehry "the hottest architect in the universe" in reference to the acclaim for his Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and they noted the designs would not include Mayor Richard M. Daley's trademarks, such as wrought iron and seasonal flower boxes. Millennium Park project manager Edward Uhlir said "Frank is just the cutting edge of the next century of architecture," and noted that no other architect was being sought. Having Gehry get involved helped the city realize its vision of having modern themes in the park; upon rumors of his involvement the Chicago Sun-Times proclaimed "Perhaps the future has arrived",while the Chicago Tribune noted that "The most celebrated architect in the world may soon have a chance to bring Chicago into the 21st Century". See more.

  • Cutting edge of the next century of architecture
  • Modern themes in the park
  • Perhaps the future has arrived
  • Bringing into the 21st century

Wow! Chicago brought Frank Gehry into the Milennium Park project for exactly the same reason that CA brought Michael McCall into the Symphony Woods project. And he, through the creation of the Inner Arbor Trust, has brought together a world-class team of architects and designers to make it happen.

What is now Millennium Park was first conceived in late 1997 with Mayor Richard M. Daley’s vision of turning the area into a new public space for residents of Chicago. The original plan called for a 16-acre park and outdoor music venue in the traditional Beaux Arts style of Grant Park. Over time, with the commitment of the private sector and the involvement of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the project evolved into an ambitious undertaking featuring a collection of world-renowned artists, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers. See more.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Chicago has an incredibly beautiful, vibrant park. The plans for the space changed over time. A new architect with a new vision was brought in. The entire project is a result of the work of a team of artists, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers.

This is exactly what is happening in Columbia, Maryland. This is how they do things in the real world. It's not about small-minded allegiances and conspiracy theories. It's about getting things accomplished: the most beautiful park for our community. Appealing to all generations. Attracting new residents and hosting exciting community events.

I can't for the life of me imagine what motivated Frank Gehry to slam the Inner Arbor plan for Symphony Woods. He, of all people, knows what it is like when they bring in a new architect to bring vision to a project. I can say that I think his position is untenable. And possibly disingenuous.

And I learned all this from a trip to Milennium Park and some basic research on the internet. Some members of our CA Board need to widen their world-view and do their homework if they want to have something meaningful to say about the future of Columbia.

Perhaps the future has already arrived.








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