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November 30, 2008

What is the purpose of the architectural sketch in the era of computer-assisted design? Is it creative discipline, exploration—or egotism? All three could be argued to be the case when one looks at the sketches by Frank Gehry of 31 of his works, now on display at the Princeton Art Museum in a show appropriately called "Frank Gehry: On Line."

gehry big jamie

The sketches are more building portraits than blueprints. They seem like renderings of outposts in utopian societies, a musing perhaps done on a cocktail napkin at Les Deux Magots–all curves, complete with Gehry's signature in the corner. Buildings included in the show include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Peter B. Lewis Library at Princeton, the Bilbao Guggenheim, and a wide array of projects culled from the past two decades.

Egotism has been argued to be at the root of the show. The architect has indeed signed and dated the sketches, which begs the question: at what point in the creation of the given building was the sketch rendered? If it is, as a sketch would suggest, a figment of dream before construction, it's a raw expression of an architect's vision. If it's a sketch mid-construction, perhaps it is a reflection, a considered change in direction, or a check-in with the meditative brain. Otherwise is it just plain self-conscious marketing? The thoughtful signatures might suggest the latter.

Regardless what motivation, the sketches are strokes of elegance and passion. The architect likes to draw, and the drawings are beautiful and special to behold.

The show is on view until January 4, 2009.
 

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