This week in news we find two of Frank Gehry’s projects declared obsolete- Winton Guest House in Minnesota, and Santa Monica Place mall in Santa Monica.
In early 2007, the University of California, Irvine, razed one of his buildings—a computer science center—to make way for a new engineering complex, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported at the time.
Mike and Penny Winton, the original clients of Winton Guest House, sold the guest house as well as their main residence, a 1954-vintage house by famous architect Philip Johnson, to Kirt Woodhouse, a real estate developer, in 2002. Woodhouse divided the 12-acre property into three separate lots, and was able to sell Johnson-designed residence but not one by Gehry’s . It stayed on the market for too long with no buyers.
Eventually, Woodhouse decided to preserve it as a work of art and began to hunt for an appropriate public site. He has now donated the house to University of St. Thomas. The university plans to offer public tours of the building and use it for meetings and social gatherings convened by the conference center.
Gehry’s playful design of 2300 sq. ft was appraised for $4.5 million. It will now be packaged into eight separate truckloads, and transported to its new home 75 miles away. It would have been an architectural treat for many if the two houses designed by two great masters- Gehry and Johnson, could live next to each other.
Another Gehry Building, Santa Monica Place, never turned a profit since its opening in 1980.It is currently 47% leased. Developer, The Macerich Company, purchased the mall in 1999 and in 2004 proposed tearing down the mall and replacing it with a 10-acre complex of high-rise condos, shops and offices. The plan met with strong opposition from local residents who felt the project did not meet the low-rise character of the neighborhood and would cause traffic congestion.
In 2007 Macerich presented his 2nd proposal in which he significantly scaled down the scope. The new proposal which has been approved includes slightly reducing the mall’s footprint of 550,000 square foot, removing the mall’s roof, create public walkways, create a dining deck to take advantage of ocean views, and other adaptive reuse measures. Planned to re-open in 2009, it would involve closing all shops except for the Macy’s department store.
The mall has been redesigned by the Jon Jerde Partnership—which, ironically, competed against Gehry for the original building commission. Jon says, “Gehry should not mind. And it wouldn’t be the first Gehry project to face the wrecking ball.”