Frank Gehry’s latest project, a $100 million clinic for brain health in Las Vegas, has just opened this past week. For years, many felt Gehry’s signature style would be a perfect match for Vegas’ decked out architecture, yet the starchitect has continually declined offers. However, this request to design a research facilitiy was quite different; Gehry agreed to design the center only if Huntington was added to the list of diseases the new center would study and treat (Gehry’s good friend saw several loved one suffer from the illness).
The building is definitely an aesthetic throwback, as it shares the recurring elements of previous designs. At times, Gehry’s reliance on his ‘typical’ design moves can make his projects “lose their freshness;” and yet, typical of Gehry, he continues to find ways to justify them.
The design splits the complex into a pair of separate wings that sit in opposition to one another (one might assume the classic left-brain, right-brain metaphor). The architecture seems to support that assumption as the office wing is rational and contained, and the auditorium free-flowing.
However, the success of the project lies in the two components’ relationship in section, as one piece seems to “infect” the other. This relationship between the two separate wings “gives the design its surprising emotional punch” for simple physical connections between the buildings, on a metaphoric level, represent movement that the patients are slowing loosing.
As Christopher Hawthorne for the LA Times explains, “The unobstructed, informal movement that the design promotes from one wing to another suggests the way we use our brains every day, flowing from left-brain to right-brain thinking and back again without noticing the difference.”
Sure, it may seem, to some, to be far fetched – but on this building, we’ll go with Gehry and give him the benefit of the doubt that he has infused the building with meaning. The 81 year old architect may be using familiar aesthetics, but something seems different. The tectonics speak more to creating a notion of decline, possibly an architectural take on the damage the disease can inflict on a person, or possible the architecture is even the broader issue of aging.