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Frank Gehry Defends the Lucas Museum, Calls it a 'Great Asset'

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Frank Gehry, the resident angry old man of the architecture world, has published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune in support of the widely criticized Lucas Museum. The gist of his argument? "Please do not dismiss it because it doesn't look like something you've never seen before."

After pointing out that the Eiffel Tower and Chicago's Monadnock Building had their early critics, Gehry acts like the classmate you wish your T.A. would be sort of cruel to on occasion; the one who makes everything about them:

"In my own experience, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles was called broken crockery when I first went public with it, and that was the nicest thing that got said. In Bilbao, the newspapers had an article asking for the architect of the museum to be killed—that was me! All of these projects have gone on to be great assets to their mutual cities, and I think the same will be true of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and Chicago." The history lesson continues as Gehry contextualizes the museum's formal elements:

The work presented for the Lucas Museum has precedent. It's not just out of the blue; it is something that has been in the air for many years. The use of rooftops as public space has precedent in the Malmo Concert Hall in Sweden by Snohetta. It is one of the first great examples, and I think it has proved very successful. Zaha Hadid has used flowing forms in many of her projects to great effect. If we go even further back, Eric Mendelsohn was using organic forms to create his masterpieces such as the Einstein Tower in Germany. Critics have raised many other concerns about the project: that it crowds the lakefront; that it's trying to do way too many things at once; that it's an illegal encroachment on protected land, or merely a movie man's vanity project pushed forward by an equally vain mayor, both operating in pursuit of tourism without actual Chicagoans in mind. In the broader critical context, Gehry's defense of Ma Yansong's design does kind of miss the point.

But to be sure, Gehry is pushing back against a real part of the pushback the museum has received; maybe not the most meaty part of the criticism, but probably the most widely echoed. His point, which has been made before, is that you can't tweet out "LOL, looks like Jabba the Hut" without betraying a bit of aesthetic conservatism, of the kind that has greeted many now-cherished structures. But if you're looking to Gehry for a serious discussion about what the Lucas Museum would mean for Chicago, the column will read as pretty Grandpa Simpson-esque: Old Man Yells About Cloud-Shaped Thing.

As Curbed Chicago reports, opponents of the park had a bit of a recent win: a judge told city lawyers they couldn't break ground without a court order. Of course, many Lucas museum opponents will see Frank Gehry's support as another reason the project is a terrible idea.

· Frank Gehry defends Lucas Museum's novel design [Chicago Tribune via Curbed Chicago]