More Frank Gehry Than Formal Greek: Really?

Walt Disney Concert HallFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set the architecture world atwitter when she invoked Frank Gehry’s work as a new model for international relations: “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek. . . some of his work at first might appear haphazard, but in fact, it’s highly intentional and sophisticated. . . Where once a few strong columns could hold up the weight of the world, today we need a dynamic mix of materials and structures.” As reported by Politico, she was comparing the old system “dominated by the United Nations, NATO and several other large organizations” to the Classical Parthenon in Athens, and the “emergence of the G-20 during the financial crisis, the creation of international groups working on climate change and U.S.-Turkey cooperation on counterterrorism as examples of this new, varied architecture.”

220px-The_Parthenon_in_AthensTo hear a globe-trotting ambassador draw on architecture — and LA’s own at that — to make a point about diplomacy was thrilling to say the least. But was the comparison apt? Aaron Betsky has an interesting thinkpiece today. “Does this mean that Gehry will be advising her in her possible second run for the presidency in 2016,” he ponders. “Can we expect candidates’ debates in which the all-American virtues of Frank Lloyd Wright battle it out with the serenity of a Jeffersonian Classicism, or in which trickle-down Beaux-Arts opposes inclusive, open Modernism?” Moreover, Betsky and I share the view that Gehry’s work is not such a polar opposite of the Parthenon, being in fact steeped in classical influences, as I wrote about recently in this article, Frank Gehry, Closet Classicist, for Artbound.

What do you think? Is there an architectural style or approach that offers a model for international relations? We would love to hear from you.