Central component of Chiat/Day Inc. building designed by Frank O. Gehry & Associates, Inc., 340 Main Street, Venice, California
Steel frame; exterior: concrete and cement plaster painted with elastomeric paint; interior: gypsum plaster
45 x 44 x 18 ft. (13.72 x 13.41 x 5.49 m)
Commissioned May 1986 by Jay Chiat
Installed August 1989-August 1991
Inaugurated September 23, 1991
A design for an island community on Laguna Morta in Venice, Italy, had been part of the project undertaken with students at the Faculty of Architecture of Milan, along with the performance Il Corso del Coltello. Called "Coltello Island," the project did not materialize, although a number of models and drawings were produced. One of the models was a small study for a theater and library in the form of standing pair of binoculars, which by early 1986 had become a fixture on the architect Frank Gehry's desk.
One day we received a telephone call from Gehry and Jay Chiat, a client, who had been pondering a maquette in progress for the new Chiat/Day advertising agency to be located on Main Street in Venice, California, not far from the Pacific Ocean. The design so far consisted of two highly disparate structures, one boat-like, the other tree-like. Now Gehry wanted to join them in the center with a third structure of a sculptural character that would mediate between the two and anchor the building, but he was not yet sure how to define it. Looking for something to demonstrate what he had in mind, he placed the little binoculars -- which serendipitously almost fit the scale of the model -- in the center of the Chiat/Day facade.
The mimetic architecture this suggested has something of a tradition in southern California, and the precedent of imagining functional objects as buildings was well established in Claes' Colossal Monument drawings
of the mid-1960s but never turned into a feasible commission. Gehry generously proposed sharing the facade of his building with us and the next few years were spent in the complex task of developing the binoculars form
into a part of the architecture. Attention focused as much on the interior as the exterior of the Binoculars and on the addition of windows -- without which, Gehry insisted, the structure would not really be a building.
Two tall unusually shaped rooms, created by following the curves of the binoculars, opened onto a conference room, the ceiling of which was covered with a version of Gehry's signature snake form. The two curved rooms were intended to serve as places of retreat. Each was furnished with a huge elongated lightbulb of resined cloth, suspended from the ceiling, softly glowing, as in comic-strip representations, the sign of a luminous idea.
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