The AP is reporting that MIT is suing Frank Gehry over “serious design flaws” in the Stata Center, completed back in 2004.
We ran a story a while back which questioned the success of the building, and some of the comments from people who’ve been there/used it complained that it leaked and its design made it an unappealing place to work. It was certainly a high profile building for the architect who created similarly asymmetric structures in Bilbao (his iconic Guggenheim museum) and Los Angeles (the Walt Disney Concert Hall).
Now I haven’t visited this particular building in person, and I feel predisposed to love Gehry’s buildings (the IAC building in New York is simply spectacular). But here I find myself falling into the ‘no smoke, no fire’ category of reaction. And that makes me sad and cross. Gloriously bold architecture needs to be about much more than the grand gesture. The suit complains of persistent leaks in the building and continues that “accumulations of snow and ice have fallen dangerously from window boxes and other areas of its roofs, blocking emergency exits and causing damage.” What? Snow in the north east of America in winter time? Well duh. Why was this not taken into consideration?
Who knows how this suit, which also names the construction firm Skanska, will play out (it’s seeking unspecified damages; Gehry’s fee was $15 million; the building itself cost $300 million) but one thing’s for sure. It’s a huge step back for the architectural community, which will only find it that much harder to get clients to take risks on a different-looking or innovative design. And that makes me mad and sad too.
Photographs: Getty Images