John Lennon said “Rock and roll will change the world.” He wasn’t wrong. The devil’s music, as everyone loved to call it in the 50s, changed the cultural habits of millions of people around the world. “The first time I heard the Beatles, I knew that the world would never be the same,” said Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of Love in the time of cholera and 100 years of solitude and winner of a Nobel prize for literature.
Rock and roll has left its mark on the world of decoration. Pop Art has brought us the classic rock and roll design: jukebox, black and white tile floor, Coca Cola bottle, Cadillac, lithographs featuring Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, rubbing shoulders with actors of the period like James Dean and Marlon Brando.
Did rock and roll influence architecture? At first glance, no. Unless it’s part of a modern movement by serving as inspiration for an architect looking for a new style. However, some buildings do have a rock and roll look, like the Experience Music Project (EMP). But the design is more 70s psychedelic rock than light frou-frou rock and roll of the 50s.
Don’t get me wrong. The building wasn’t designed by old hippies who refuse to let the 60s die. The man who financed the project is none other than Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates, a multi-billionaire today. Allen is crazy about rock and guitarist Jimi Hendrix is one of his idols. Like Hendrix, Allen was born in Seattle, where the building is also located.
Who’s the architect that designed the Experience Music Project? Frank Gehry, a legend among contemporary architects. He designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the famous Dancing House in Prague, two buildings previously discussed on Casarazzi’s blog. Born in Toronto, Gehry is considered a master of the twisted.
You’re probably wondering what the building represents. Here’s the story. Frank Gehry dismantled an electric guitar and used an application to rework it. Jimi Hendrix liked to burn and smash his guitars during concerts. That was when rockers didn’t realize how much damage downers and drugs could cause.
The building’s outside wall contains 4000 individually cut stainless steel and aluminum panels. Each one is different.
The Experience Music Project houses a cultural centre, a concert hall, an interactive rock and roll museum and a science fiction museum. It was built in 2000 at a cost of $240 million. It contains 80,000 objects mostly related to rock music.
Some people might consider all that money to be a waste. It’s true that the building has already made the Forbes magazine list of the ten ugliest buildings in the world. It’s even been compared to hemorrhoids. But for every detractor, there’s someone who considers it to be genius.
It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. The important thing to remember is that it’s an extremely unusual building.
French Wikipedia article for Experience Music Project
English Wikipedia article for Frank Gehry
English Wikipedia article for Paul Allen
English Wikipedia article for Experience Music Project