A year and half ago, the arranged marriage between über-architect Frank Gehry and South Beach was on the rocks. Gehry was halfway to divorce court after Miami Beach commissioners fired him from half the New World Symphony project, taking a parking garage and a park out of his hands to save money. "I find it really insulting," Gehry told the Herald at the time. "If they keep messing with me ... I will withdraw completely."
That's why it's quite amazing that Gehry's New World Symphony is not only opening on time tonight -- it's debuting to pants-wetting reviews from top architecture critics.
Gehry, the world-class designer of L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall and Bilbao's Guggenheim, among others, agreed to tackle a new home for Miami's elite training symphony in part because he's lifelong friends with symphony director Michael Tilson Thomas.
He seemed to be seriously regretting the move when the city yanked the garage and park away and awarded their design to a Dutch firm that agreed to work cheaper.
But Gehry eventually moved past his spat with the city and focused on the symphony's headquarters and concert hall. And it turns out the commission, for once, maybe knew what it was doing.
Riptide isn't nearly high-falutin enough to get an invite to check out the new symphony ourselves (and we wouldn't really know a Gehry from a Gap.) But critics from the New York Times, Washington Post and L.A. Times all gush that the symphony hall is Gehry's best work in years.
The story reflects Mr. Gehry's belief that music, like other creative endeavors, should be more than an aesthetic matter. As a shared experience, one that reaches each of us at our emotional core, it helps unite us into a civilized community. This is probably why it's the first Gehry building I have fallen in love with in years -- not because it is perfect but because of the values it embodies.
Here's the WashPo's Philip Kennicott going coo-coo for Gehry-puffs:
Gehry's concert hall for the New World Symphony, an elite training orchestra that is one of the most innovative musical organizations in the country, is the first American concert space built from the ground up to include sophisticated video, theater-style lighting and flexible stage space that can accommodate not just an orchestra, but soloists and chamber groups. It also happens to be one of Gehry's best buildings in years, an introspective structure that gathers the wisdom of his earlier work on concert halls in Los Angeles and in Upstate New York.
Throughout the $160-million concert hall, set to open officially Tuesday evening, the interplay between rectangular containers and their virtuosic architectural contents gives the design a shifting, unpredictable vitality. This is a piece of architecture that dares you to underestimate it or write it off at first glance. In the middle of Miami Beach, a city that, like certain parts of Los Angeles, has nearly perfected the art of aggressive displays of individual beauty -- pneumatic, Botoxed, dyed and otherwise -- it is content to focus on the richness of its interior life.
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Finally, here's the Herald's Beth Dunlop going all tween at a Hannah Montana show:
In the end, all this art is united in a purpose of creating a new audience, most specifically the next generation of listeners (and patrons) of classical music, but, even more, this campus offers a chance to explore the future in the context of the past, where great art is not separated by the centuries. (Imagine listening to the 18th century genius of Johann Sebastian Bach while viewing it in the context of avant-garde video interpretation.) Technology gives the building an edge here, but it is the architecture -- the immediacy, the intimacy, even the urgency of the architecture -- that expresses it.
Want to judge for yourself? The hall debuts at 6 p.m. tonight. You can check out the park and "soundscape" wall -- where live images of the concert inside will be broadcast -- for free.