The Gehry Residence in Santa Monica, Calif., has been selected for the 2012 AIA Twenty-five Year Award. Recognizing architectural design of enduring significance, the Twenty-five Year Award is conferred on a building that has stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years as an embodiment of architectural excellence. Projects must demonstrate excellence in function, in the distinguished execution of its original program, and in the creative aspects of its statement by today's standards. The award will be presented this May at the AIA National Convention in Washington, D.C.
A seemingly ad hoc collection of raw, workmanlike materials wrapped around an unassuming two-story clapboard bungalow, Frank Gehry's, FAIA, home for his wife, Berta, and two sons found a literal, but unexpected, answer to the question of neighborhood context, and used it to forever re-shape the formal and material boundaries of architecture.
As soon as it was completed in 1978 reactions ranged from hagiography to anathema. Over time, critical reactions mirrored the role the house would play in the larger canon of contemporary architecture. A 1979 review by New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, recognized the house as an extremely successful provocation - if not much more. He called the Gehry Residence the most significant new house in Southern California in years, admiring its central conceptual conceit: an old house wrapped in jagged panels of corrugated metal, creating a new band of patio-like indoor/outdoor space on three sides.
The exposed structure, chaotic fusion of disparate materials, and aggressive juxtaposition of old and new communicate a sense of real-time formal evolution and conflict, as if the building were dynamically, violently creating itself with found objects. This notion of embracing unfinished imperfection has been powerfully influential among progressive building designers, especially in Gehry's home base of Southern California. The sculptural qualities of Gehry's house presage the wild eruptions of form at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Walt Disney Concert Hall that would make him a world design icon, still recognizable under the rectilinear massing of the old bungalow and its curious new armature.