business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend about architect Frank Gehry - described as someone who “has dreamed up some of the world’s most fantastical structures - designs that have been compared to billowing clouds, undulating sails, alien spacecraft and (during a cameo on The Simpsons) crumpled pieces of paper.”

I know nothing about architecture, though I’ve often said that I wish I had a talent for it; it seems to me that there is something magical about seeing an empty space and creating something physical and tangible and moving out of it. (Back in 2006 I reviewed Sketches of Frank Gehry, a documentary directed by Sidney Pollack that l found fascinating.)

This Journal piece was about how Gehry - who at 90 has an amazing number of projects on his plate - is working to revive and redefine a part of Los Angeles (where he lives) that has been long been one of the poorest parts of California.

An explanation from the Journal story:

“Gehry hopes to repair this historic scar. If he has his way, a three-mile section of river here will include an arching platform covered in parkland, transforming an urban void into a futuristic, linear version of Central Park. It’s just one part of a master plan for the waterway that Gehry is overseeing in collaboration with numerous partners and consultants. Last year, he revealed designs for a concert hall in nearby Inglewood as a new home for the L.A. Philharmonic’s youth orchestra, and is now in discussions with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art about creating a satellite museum, perhaps in this area.”

The entire story is really interesting, and I urge you to read it here.

For the purposes of this Monday morning business lesson, however, I want to tell you about one particular part of the story, which takes place in a public school in the poor area of Los Angeles, where Gehry has come to talk to sixth grade students about what it takes to make a city.

The first thing he says to the students is, “You know what’s wrong with this room? It’s too clean!” He turns to the teacher. “Do you mind if we mess it up?”

The Journal writes that “the day’s project is to create an imaginary city, for which the kids will each model a structure. ‘The buildings don’t have to look like any you have ever seen,’ Gehry says pointedly. ‘They don’t have to look like any of the things built around you’.”

The Journal goes on: “An hour or so later, the students show off their wildly playful creations, which Gehry helps place around parks and roads in their fantasy metropolis. ‘Look at this new city!’ he says when they finish. ‘Is it boring? No! So it’s possible to make a new city without it being boring.’ It’s a disarmingly simple statement that could be on the Gehry coat of arms.”

To me, that exchange reflects so much of how businesses need to think these days - to succeed in the future, they shouldn’t rely on how things have been. Wildly playful sounds pretty good … even potentially Eye-Opening.
KC's View: