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Gehry Uncertain About Future Allston Involvement

CORRECTION APPENDED

Before world-renowned architect Frank O. Gehry became known for his creatively warped buildings across the world, he studied city planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Now, nearly 50 years later, Gehry is back in Cambridge, aiding planners as the University expands into Allston over the next half of a century.

But architecture enthusiasts anticipating that the sterling sleekness of the Guggenheim Museum will come to Allston may have to wait.

Gehry, who was brought on as an adviser to Harvard’s expansion across the Charles River, said yesterday that he had no immediate plans to bring his expertise to Cambridge.

“It’s way too early [to know] whether or not there will be any building by me on campus,” Gehry, 78, said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles office. “It’s possible.”

Gehry also said that if the opportunity for him to design a building arose, he would “consider it, certainly.”

Gehry, landscape architect Laurie Olin, and the New York-based planning and design firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners were charged with creating a master plan for Allston in 2004. Gehry helped brainstorm ideas to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic on Anderson bridge, and he studied the feasibility of moving undergraduate houses across the Charles River.

Cooper, Robertson Managing Director David McGregor said that his firm added Gehry and Olin to the team because of their attention to city planning issues and not a desire for fame.

“There are architects who think first and foremost, ‘how can I make my building and my site the most prominent site there so that I can get noticed,’” he said. “That is not the way that any of us in the collaboration feel.”

Gehry also emphasized the importance of teamwork in the project.

“It was all communal and we all participated,” he said. “They wanted somebody like me to help them create a DNA for future buildings in the planning study, so that was my main role.”

Harvard’s campus is no stranger to stars from the design world. The late Le Corbusier designed the Carpenter Center and Walter Gropius designed the Harkness Graduate Center at the Law School. Most recently, Italian architect Renzo Piano has helped guide the Fogg Art Museum renovations and Stefan Behnisch has been tapped to design the science complex in Allston.

Professor in Practice of Urban Design Alex Krieger, who was on the selection committee for the planning team, said that Gehry was added to the team for his creative approach to planning, not his architectural prowess.

“They thought he would add some necessary innovative thinking for them that would be more than a sober analytic process of figuring out what Harvard’s needs are in Allston,” said Krieger, who teaches Literature and Arts B-20: “Designing the American City.”

Gehry said yesterday he hoped one day to return to the school he graduated from in 1957.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for Harvard,” he said. “I hope I’m around to work on part of it anyway.”

—Staff writer Laura A. Moore can be reached at lamoore@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the print version of the April 5 news article "Gehry Will Not Design Allston Buildings" carried an incorrect headline. In fact, Gehry said he had not immediate plans to design an Allston building, but that he would consider doing so if the opportunity presented itself.
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