Page D1.1 . 12 July 2000                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department



Frank Gehry Rock Temple

by Clair Enlow

In 1969 a screaming, reverberating rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix seemed to herald an end to innocence. His resonant lyric "Are you experienced?" is now recalled in the name of software billionaire Paul G. Allen's Experience Music Project. Hendrix would have appreciated the design approach to Seattle's new museum of pop music.

Architect Frank O. Gehry has made a career out of bending vertical and horizontal lines of building construction into something defiant and sometimes poetic. With Seattle's EMP, opened just over a week before the Fourth of July, he has met his perfect client in Allen and his metaphorical match in rock-'n'-roll. The resulting architecture is a unique performance and a new landmark on the edge of the Seattle Center.

The new building's metal skin looks like the shining surface of a jet. Yet it ripples and floats freely, inviting historic references to sculptural drapery from Nike of Samothrace to Claus Sluter's Fourteenth Century carvings (Gehry's favorite). Ribbons of translucent "roof sculpture" add another undulating layer.

According to the underspoken Gehry, the real inspiration for the project is a pile of trash he gleaned from an electric guitar shop near his office in Santa Monica. Indeed, the forms and finishes of EMP touch on some potent layers of American subconscious: Fender guitars, auto bodies, and a touch of rental tux.

Defying the traditions of architecture and sculpture, EMP is very much about color tuned to evoke visceral responses. The most striking of the five tones that mark different sections of the building is a deep pastel blue rendered in non-fading auto body paint. That is rivaled by the pulsing red of another section. Three more tones are achieved by specially treating the finish of the metal. They are gold, silver, and a shimmering Purple Haze.



ArchWeek Photo

The building's metal skin looks like the shining surface of a jet, yet it ripples and floats in sculptural freedom.
Photo: Stan Smith

ArchWeek Photo

An aerial view of Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project during construction in the Seattle Center, site of the 1962 Worlds Fair.
Photo: Stan Smith


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