Was Gehry Right? / by Justin Fuqua


Back in October 2014 at a press conference American superstar architect Frank Gehry said that “98 percent of what gets designed today is pure …” well, you can fill in the rest.  Suffice it to say he’s not impressed with the 98%.  He was probably having a real bad day and felt a bit cranky.  But was he right?  How do you feel about the buildings you see around you and use every day?


Architecture has been around since the beginning of time.  Similarly, it has been said that “there is nothing new under the sun”.  Technology changes and is ever evolving.  Thanks to new materials we can design buildings that reach higher and span further, enclosed in forms never before seen.  But there are common denominators between buildings old and new.


A couple thousand years ago an architect named Vitruvius wrote a book about architecture called “De Architectura”, known today as “The Ten Books on Architecture”.  In this book he describes three elements that are necessary for a building to be successful; “firmitas, utilitas, venustas”, or “firmness, commodity and delight”.  In other words, the building must be structurally sound (firmness), functional (commodity) and beautiful (delight).  Through the ages, these three elements have stood the test of time.  They are inseparable.  I believe a building is truly successful when it exceeds the user’s expectations in all three categories.  But of the three, beauty is the one that people love to talk about the most.  It’s not just the exterior of the building, but also the spaces within that make the difference between a good building and one that is exciting and makes you want to go inside.   Even Frank Lloyd Wright paraphrased Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu when he said “The space within becomes the reality of the building”.  (See photo of Wright’s Guggenheim museum at right). 

We’ve all heard that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.  This, of course, is true of many things.  What does beautiful architecture mean to you?  Why do you like some spaces and not others?  What draws you to a building or a space?  What would make buildings better?


Welcome to The Collaborative Forum, a periodic blog expressing ideas and views on architecture, cool spaces and the built environment.  Periodically we will present vignettes from a variety of building types and spaces around the world as well as from TKC Architects.  But what we want to know is this: what is your favorite building? Was it a house, a church, a theater?  Tell me what you liked best about it and how you felt when you were inside.  You don’t have to be a professional to share an opinion – architecture is for everyone to enjoy.  We really want to know what you think.

 Richard Emerson Kaufman is an Architect/Chief Visionary Officer of The Kaufman Collaborative Architects.  Experienced in residential, commercial and institutional architecture.  Kaufman is committed to helping clients find creative, workable solutions that are cost effective and environmentally responsible.