Gehry and Madoff: cosmic twins?


After finally seeing the Pritzker Pavilion of Millenium Park in Chicago first hand, I’m beginning to view the work of Frank Gehry as an architectural cousin to the financial mindset of the likes of Bernard Madoff. Both stand out as icons of a gilded era that seemed until recently to be in its infancy but is rapidly retreating in the wake of global crisis; two expressions of ‘irrational exuberance’ for the ages. While Madoff’s possessions are auctioned off to pay the victims of his elaborate Ponzi scheme and he suffers universal scorn, the contemporaneous architecture of Frank Gehry remains well outside of reproach. Yet I can’t help but to find a connection between the cosmic twins and think it’s time to allow hindsight to color how we see Gehry’s architecture, which at its core is pure spectacle, the aesthetic equivalent of financial hubris and greed.


Obviously, the big difference is that Gehry’s buildings actually work, which is a fundamental requirement of architecture, unlike banking. With hindsight, though, the question arises what do they work for, and how should architecture work? Hopefully, as the latest age of excess fades in memory, a new kind of functionality will emerge in both the realms of finance and design, one that values the human scale and honors its role in addressing sustainability, without sacrificing spectacle or glamour. Hopefully, Gehry’s buildings will continue to influence us as harbingers of the nascent potential for the imagination to stretch the boundaries of technology and material culture. What remains to be seen is if we will get return on our aesthetic investment. Upon experiencing Gehry’s work for the first time in person, I did not.



2 replies on “Gehry and Madoff: cosmic twins?”

  1. I suppose if your building is more a puzzle than a functioning useful (see:usable) edifice, costs skillions to build and you get paid obscene amounts of money no one dare criticize–Who do you think you are-you plebe you–

  2. Seems to be a function of what the market will bare, in both cases, which frames the larger question. I’m interested to see how Gehry’s architecture is ultimately framed historically, but time is running short for such flourishes, however lovely. I’d love to see what Gehry could do with a tiny budget and big social/environmental agenda, given his star status. And I’m sure we’ll eventually hear from Madoff about his redeeming take on finance, whether or not we’d like.

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