I go to concerts at Disney Hall here in Los Angeles a few times a year. I think it's a hideously ugly building, but it's adored by most Angelenos, and within the world of architecture, it's worshipped.
The building was designed by Frank Gehry, who is architecture's superstar of the moment. Sketches of Frank Gehry is an inside look at Gehry's process and several of his more famous buildings, notably the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The movie is directed by Sydney Pollack, a longtime friend of Gehry; Gehry had been approached for years by directors wanting to make a documentary, and he finally asked Pollack to make one. Pollack tells us that he was reluctant, pointing out that he had never made a documentary and knew very little about architecture; "that's why you're perfect for the job," said Gehry.
The process is fascinating to watch; the curving metallic facades of Gehry's recent work are possible only with the advent of computer technology that allows these complicated shapes to be precisely translated into plans for the factories that will build the pieces and the engineers who will assemble the buildings. Gehry himself has never learned to use a computer, but he has a team of several assistants who translate his plans and 3-D models into computer models.
So revered is Gehry in the world of architecture that the few critical voices in the film are all apologetic and defensive about the fact that they are criticizing his work. Most of his colleagues, though, are in agreement that he is the most innovative and brilliant mind in architecture; the praise becomes a bit monotonous by the end of the movie.
I still think Gehry's buildings are ugly, but I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at how they're created.