From Canadian emigre to Los Angeles art-scene hanger-on, and from scruffy builder in cheap materials to the world’s pre-eminent titanium-clad “starchitect,” Mr. Gehry’s remarkable achievement will not be completely demystified in this eminently readable book. “Building Art” will impart a sense of the humble perseverance, patience and resilience necessary to compile the many setbacks, disappointments and minor victories into a singular creative career leading to a Bilbao or a Disney.
Mr. Gehry’s early Santa Monica house, a Dutch colonial deconstructed with chain-link fencing and corrugated metal, has long been a postmodern icon. “Destination architecture” and “Bilbao Effect,” terms coined for his mature work, testify that a single, spectacular building can revive a post-industrial region culturally and economically.
The reader will likely already have an opinion as to the virtues Mr. Gehry’s architecture (our region is graced with the Peter B. Lewis building at Case Western University in Cleveland), and has numerous coffee-table books and scholarly monographs to turn to for further analysis. This frees Mr. Goldberger to concentrate on the more human aspects of his subject, although mundane moments in his subject’s story tend to be matched to pedestrian prose, with most elegiac passages reserved for soaring architectural descriptions.
Intrigue and suspense largely appear only in the buildup to key career successes or disappointments (and there are many). But those looking for celebrity gossip will find little to satisfy, even with a plethora of cameo appearances by the rich and famous with whom Mr. Gehry is known to hobnob avidly.