Thursday, July 21, 2011

Frank Gehry's late success + What makes a GREAT restaurant?

Aerial view of Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

The Fun Architecture 
of Frank Gehry
Architect Frank Gehry thought his long career was coming to a graceful end before lightening struck, when he designed a single building in a relatively unknown city in Spain. The year was 1997 and the city was Bilbao, Spain when Gehry's titanium wrapped, modern expressionist and curvaceous Guggenheim Museum took the world by storm.

Photos from the Artifice Collection

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (pictured above) single handedly put Bilbao, Spain on the map and Frank Gehry became the most talked about architect of 1997-98! Gehry had hinted at free-form design on previous projects, but with the Guggenheim Bilbao the vision of his signature style matured and he designed his now famous curving titanium shapes with reckless abandon. The result was and still is stunning! Gehry's next big project was the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the city where he lives and works.

The Disney commission was filled with "public project" politics and problems, but upon completion the building made another publicity splash for the architect. Commissions started pouring in from all over the world with institutions begging for his titanium and curvilinear touch.

The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College
The New Yorker magazine called it "the best small concert hall in the United States".

Frank Gehry was born into a very poor immigrant family with the last name Goldberg (he changed his name to Gehry in the 1950's). His father raised his large family in the Hell's Kitchen section of NYC, when the area actually "was" its literal meaning. Although he considers himself as being from New York City, Gehry has had few projects in the city during his career - until recently when high profile commissions have come his way, in this toughest of markets for any architect. 

His IAC Offices in Chelsea is an amazing work of curved and tinted glass. Each pane of glass is custom made to size, to shape and with a unique pattern of the gradient white tint. The huge 16 building Atlantic Yards Project, proposed for Brooklyn, was put on hold due to economic conditions and because of the public outcry over the negative impact it might have on Brooklyn's neighborhoods. Today his monument of a skyscraper has just been completed in Manhattan near City Hall and overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. "8 Spruce Street" is a 76 story tower of undulating ripples, flowing up the sides. Seeing it makes me wonder, how did they build that? The following video gives some insight.

Gehry, now 82, has had a third act like few others. His career came on so strong after most architects would have retired. We should all say: "Thank you Mr. Gehry for the fun architecture you have given the world."


Midwest-Based Artist Kay Rosen's
6 story hand painted mural.

Artist Kay Rosen
inspires Chicago to
Painted in bright yellow on the exterior of a building inside "The Loop" in Chicago, artist Kay Rosen uses graphic typography to make an even larger point about taking action to "DO GOOD" through gestures large and small, public and private on a daily basis. The work can also be appreciated as abstract art, repetitive black letter forms on a yellow field. This mural and other related pieces will remain up until September. Chicago has built a whole "GO DO GOOD" campaign around this artwork, seeing it as an opportunity for volunteer groups to create events - with the goal of inspiring 100,000 "organized acts of goodness" this summer. This commission is the second annual Art Loop Public Art Installation installed to create interest in the central Loop area. Last year's Art Loop installation centered around an "EYE" sculpture by Tony Tasset. 

Summer vacations continue!

It seems in today's mixed up world, we are most a family when we are all on vacation together. That is the reason this creative image depicting the 2 parent, 2 kids & a dog American family, originally published in the New Yorker magazine, spoke to me at this time. The image came from the wonderful mind of cartoonist Saul Steinberg. A quality print is available for purchase along with many other New Yorker cartoons through

Who is in the kitchen?

What makes for a great restaurant, the food?, the decor?, who eats there?, location? marketing & publicity? or trendiness? Only occasionally when one dines out do you sit back after taking a bite and say "Wow, that is Unbelievable". For me the dining experience starts and ends with the food and who is preparing it in the kitchen whether it is a Mom & Pop diner or a 4 star restaurant. A great meal starts at the top, the owner's / manager's view of the restaurant they want to create and in the best case scenario, that results in a great chef and staff in the kitchen. As compared to the restaurant who's manager believes that average is good enough and hires simply a competent staff. The kitchen staff must WANT to create great food and be willing to pay attention to details in order to do it. At one time I worked at Holiday Inns, International's home office as the Art Director. There I learned that we could design and build the most incredible restaurant interior, produce a great marketing and branding logo program, have world class chefs design the menu, which included a manual on how to prepare each dish and still the dining experience was almost always disappointing. Why? Because the on site manager hired the staff based on a different objective, that being to fill the kitchen positions as inexpensively and as conveniently as possible. Many of these managers would hire untalented and uninterested staff to prepare the food. Aha! That proved to me: "WHO is in the kitchen" IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT when it comes to creating a great restaurant with outstanding food.

In Colorado and last night we were dining at a small Denver restaurant formerly named Cafe Star, now it is called Trattoria Stella. Admittedly we have dined there many times because the owner is a friend of ours and over time the meals have been consistently good. The difference between "Unbelievably Good" and "Good" is vast. In my mind the meals which were simply "Good" were the short periods when the restaurant was between excellent chefs (a talented chef is notoriously hard to find and to keep).

Recently, for Sunday brunch, we dined on shrimp and grits which included a finishing touch of honey/chorizo reduction around the edges. Last night it was pan seared scallops with a salad made up of Asian flavored sticky rice topped with apple, carrot & fennel-root slices and finished with a light citrus dressing - the side was grilled white asparagus and to drink we had watermelon lemonade. Wow, wow and wow! Both meals were shake-your-head good. The chef, a young man named Valentino, is currently heading up Trattoria Stella's kitchen. Valentino trained under Mario Batali in New York and his assistant chef, Lorenz Hartmann, was the personal chef for a major sports figure.

Trattoria Stella is not an expensive restaurant, our total bill was very reasonable. AGAIN: For me, great food = great restaurants and great food all depends on who is in the kitchen! A talented chef does not disappoint, because for them each dish has "their good name" attached to everything sent to the tables!

Trattoria Stella,
Owner: Tom Sumners,
3201 East Colfax Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80206

Review in "Westword" an alternative newspaper, Denver: "At Stella, the experimentation is most aggressive: spinach spaghetti amatriciana with pancetta, sweet onions and brown sugar; mustard-brie sauce over portobello mushrooms and pasta; handmade ravioli stuffed with bacon and white-bean pur√©e; tiger shrimp with goat cheese, red-pepper-and-lemon aglio olio, and sun-dried cherries. While these combinations sound weird, they work. Stella is a shining star...."

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD, All rights reserved. Concept & Original Text © Copyright 2011 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

No comments:

Post a Comment