Frank Gehry designs brain research center in Vegas


Frank Gehry's latest project is the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, where people research degenerative brain diseases. I like how the crazy contours and irregularities are counter to what we typically imagine health-based organizations to look like.

Frank Gehry main page [via Dezeen]

Image: Matthew Carbone


  1. I always find myself disliking and liking Gehry’s designs at the same time. When I went to the U of M, I found myself shuddering as I walked past the Weisman on some days, and others, when the sun caught it just right, really admiring the details.

    I like the texture in the Lou Ruvo Center, but some of those corner windows look like they’ll get a pretty crappy view of the outside. Definitely an interesting choice for a brain research facility.

    I wonder what it would look like if he designed a mental health facility?

    1. Careful what you call U of M. You having gone there, and me having grown up around there think of MN. Where I live now, U of M can never, *ever* be anything other than MI. Don’t even think about refering to another university as U of M.

  2. I guess I’m just too much of a minimalist to get into his buildings. Looking at the curving piece with the openings in it on the left, all I can think is that it’s a waste of materials. It could have gone into something to make the building more structurally sound, last longer, and/or function for its purpose better. Instead it’s frippery; it’s the modern equivalent of false Doric columns. Ornamentation for its own sake. Which I suppose is fine if you’re bedazzling a jacket, but a world famous architect ought to be able to come up with something that’s functional AND pretty.

    1. And many times Gehry’s designs are worse than an artsy waste. I know that MIT has had to shore up the Gehry-designed Stata Center multiple times for being structurally unsound, and even after that it leaks like a sieve.

      1. Many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings leaked as well. I’ve heard interviews with people that worked in the Johnson Wax building talking about how they had to put garbage cans all around the floor to catch the water. Its not necessarily Ghery’s fault though. Building techniques and materials haven’t caught up to his designs yet.

        1. Comparing Gehry and Wright is a bad idea, particularly when you are talking about problems Wright’s buildings developed after decades in constant use that Gehry’s buildings developed before they were even fully occupied.

          Despite fake stories spread by his detractors, most Wright clients loved their houses and some (Herbert Jacobs comes to mind) bought several.

          But hey, jf the Johnson Wax buildings were so shoddy (they weren’t) why did Johnson keep building more?

        2. Isn’t it up to him to work those problems through with manufacturers and contractors? On the bright side, it opens an employment niche for supremely skilled caulkers.

  3. It also makes for a great neuro-test. If someone walks into the building, and asks why it looks so plain and boring, then obviously there is somethign wrong! :)

  4. I gotta’ admit. I do love Gehry!

    Even though his ‘deconstructionist explosions’ have ruined an entire generation of young architects who desperately attempt to copy him (sans genius and vision), I still admire his genuine uniqueness aesthetic nerve.

  5. I would enjoy the building as a place of differance and then what would be different inside; if it is different will the brain try and make it right or just except it for what it is? I would just have to find out. This is very much like the people around us some frighten or smell different and is the fear because of the unknown.

  6. Jim Kunstler on Frank Gehry: “Well, he’s a pretty good sculptor, unfortunately working in the medium of buildings.”

  7. Well they’ll probably see an increase in test subject volunteers. “I think there’s something wrong with my brain – I was walking down the street and suddenly the buildings went all wibbly!”

  8. His buildings may be impractical, and may kill you with a falling ice sheet in winter, but they look damn good. The Stata Center is pretty awesome on the inside though. I’ve only been in there a few times, but it’s cool how unpredictable the building is. There is something cool about an elevator that serves non-consecutive floors.

  9. I went to MIT, and I’ve seen at least three other buildings besides the Stata center designed by Gehry since then, and honestly one question has been haunting me for years: Is Gehry getting away with building the same structures for his entire career?

    Frankly all of his buildings look the same.

  10. I actually work near this building, and drive by it occasionally. I remember thinking how ironic it was that something so mind-bending holds something called “The Center for Brain Health”.
    For what it’s worth, I really like it. It’s different and unusual, and in a town full of the most unimaginative architecture (I’m serious! Off the Strip, nearly every office building is pretty much a gray squat box, and all the houses are adobe-ish cookie-cutter boxes in the same shades of brown, gray, and band-aid), it adds a bit of interest.

  11. My first thought was “Great, another effing Gehry ripoff.”

    Then again, I think that every time these days…

  12. I love the Stata and when I lived in Watertown, I’d take pics of it every time I went to MIT but I don’t have to work there and I’ve heard it’s leaky.

    I like the EMP (Seattle) from a ground level perspective but I can see the northernmost end of it from my apartment and I’m afraid from that perspective it looks like a giant bronzed turd. In theory the EMP is supposed to be Jimi Hendrix’s smashed guitar or something, but I’ve never been able to capture the resemblance.

    (I must admit I’m also a sucker for Seattle’s Rem Koolhaas designed library.)

  13. Is MIT’s lawsuit still going against Gehry’s Stata Center? Last I remember, the complaints were not only that it leaked because of lack of care in how things like glass walls might meet brick walls (already mentioned above), but that the insulation had been terribly designed so that the building constantly “sweats,” causing moisture to build up between layers of insulation, causing mold.

    I for one would prefer my architect to spend 10% of his time on silly frippery and 90% of time on the actual important implementation details, rather than the other way around. Then again, that’s why I’m not on any committees to choose architects for fancy buildings.

  14. I generally like Gehry’s designs but i’m surprised at his ‘rookie’ mistakes when he’s been a professional architect for decades. My favorite mistake: at a certain point in the afternoon, the sun would reflect off one of the panels on the Walt Disney Hall right into some apartments across the street, raising their temperature by at least several degrees(I want to say it would go up 20 degrees farenheit?). They had to sand the surface so it wouldn’t be so reflective.

    Isn’t that kind of an obvious issue with reflective metal sheets?

    1. My thoughts exactly. For my money, Frank Gehry’s designs are neither good or bad aesthetically, but in terms of practicality they fail spectacularly. Boingboing actually mentioned the unfortunate death ray side effects of Disney Hall.

      You’d think a modern god of architecture would think of these things…but what do the “little people” matter in the grand scheme of art?

  15. Having to deal with the odd angles and non-rectilinear walls might give your brain enough of a workout to help stave off some forms of age-related brain disease, but I’m sure dealing with the awkwardly-shaped space would get tiring and inconvenient very quickly if you had an office there.

  16. I have no idea why some people like his buildings; I think they’re ugly, shoddy, and hugely impractical.

  17. Like his style or not, aren’t *most* buildings by the same architect reminiscent of their previous ones? You rarely see them breaking the mold after every one.

  18. “Also wasteful and impractical.”

    Hey, this is Las Vegas. Wasteful and impractical is our motto.

    Then again, maybe not as wasteful and impractical as you might think. Those false walls provide a lot of shade, even with window-sized holes in them. I imagine it keeps the cooling bills down when it’s 115 outside.

  19. I hope Gehry ‘forgot’ to include the animal ‘research’ (torture) labs that such institutions generally house. I’m not going to look at that and sigh, “Oh, what a lovely building!” if it’s housing death camps for nonhumans within.

  20. I think it’s funny that my 8-year-old immediately commented that the picture reminded him of the Weisman at the U of MN.

  21. For the ‘wild building’ comments–as much as his designs look complex, the design of the spaces and interior massing is actually very minimalist– in essence, many of his projects are a neat stack of boxes with a very fancy skin applied to them. As with many starchitects, apparently complex buildings are some of the most spatially simple, while some of the most aesthetically simple and ‘clean line’ buildings are incredibly complex.

  22. I’m with Kunstler on this one.

    While I acknowledge that “sensitivity” to architectural heritage may be stifling, it seems like ever since le Corbusier, architect have thought of cities as mere fire hydrants upon which to lift their legs.

    And I sue me, but like symmetry, ornament and cultural signifiers. Gehry and co seem to have never left the proverbial box of building blocks.

  23. I just made a connection between this structure and my least favorite police cars.

    I like police squad cars to be boring, reassuring sedans that don’t particularly exude personality. When I see a squad car that’s a sporty muscle car, it inclines me to think the cop inside is going to be a redneck cowboy.

    So too with buildings. If a church, museum, or school building is going to play with my brain, I’m OK with that. But a funeral home, court building, day care center, or hospital should be predictable to the point of boring. Vulnerable people shouldn’t have to readjust their aesthetics before they even walk in the door. It’s insulting.

  24. Fuck Frank Gehry.

    Seriously people. Philip Johnson. Renzo Piano. FLW. The Yurt. Live it, learn it, love it.

    1. I do like the yurt. Can’t live it, but I do love it. See empty lots around SF and mentally plan my yurt home: Perimeter bamboo fence is a must however: I can’t go full nomad. I’m going to need A LOT of felt. . .

  25. There a quote I’ve seen a few places, reportedly from Frank Lloyd Wright, that reads something to the effect of, “If the building doesn’t leak the architect didn’t try hard enough.” Of course a few quick google searches weren’t fruitful for me on this so I may have just invented it out of whole cloth.

    As for leaking buildings, the more adventurous architects keep me in business. As do the average architects. And the mundane ones. I specialize in building enclosure work. While complex, even Gehry buildings CAN be built not to leak or produce condensation. Unfortunately, there’s a gap somewhere between the desire to do better and the knowledge base necessary to put that desire into action. Architects would also rather not share their fees with anybody that they don’t absolutely have to, thus I help owners fix buildings less than 5 years old more often than older ones. Business remains good.

    1. Problems arising from structural innovation are very different from those reported from Gehry’s buildings (lack of consideration for simple reflectivity being one example). Sculptural stainless steel skins were widely in use on buildings long before Gehry started doing it, after all. Mickey’s Diner in St. Paul was built in 1939!

      By contrast, Sullivan, Adler and Wright were working with previously unused materials, such as rebar-reinforced concrete. Louis Sullivan figured out that steel and concrete are complimentary in their characteristics, a fact we now take for granted.

      It took a long time to find out you need to coat the rebar. The concrete takes many years to cure to the point where it is both permeable enough to admit water and air and weak enough to crack from the expansion of the rebar as it oxidizes. Then, of course, it takes years longer for the cracks to be created. Eventually, you’ll get ugly rust-stained cracks and leaks, but how long it will take depends on local climate and concrete mix.

      I’m told that when buildings such as Wright’s Fallingwater are rebuilt, the old bar & crete are removed and replacement concrete is cast on coated and pre-oxidized rebar. Then the building is ready for another century of use without unusual maintenance requirements (seems like a win to me).

  26. This building is not an example of legitimate architecture, it is an exercise in folly. And to design a center that is at all associated with mental disorder in such a manner boggles the logical mind. What *was* Ghery thinking about when he came up with this self-indulgent monstrosity? Ack, reboot!

  27. These buildings are all about donor ego. I have yet to meet a researcher who works in a fancy starchitect designed bells and whistles building who wouldn’t rather work in some nondescript warehouse and have the difference in building cost to spend on equipment and research personnel.

    It is really sad.

    1. That’s because the second building you listed was not designed by Gehry. Gehry was involved in the rehab of an existing building – to which he contributed his name, some ugly, high-maintenance bric-a-brac and perhaps a large bill. He is not that architect of that building.

      The first building you listed was indeed typical Gehry. And I like it! It seems appropriate to Disney.

  28. frank gehry is the biggest blowhard egotistical wanker i’ve ever seen. honestly the fact that so few people can see through how absurdly arbitrary and ridiculous his work is makes me sort of sad for humanity. if you’ve ever been to the emf building in seattle, it’s this giant amorphous purple barn; an ode to tastelessness, excess and the result of onanism untethered by budgeting.

    i’m not sure if anyone on here is an architect, but my understanding of the design process is that you identify the needs of the client and the constraints of the site, and then come up with some ideas, flesh them out with copious models and sketches and then distill this work into a finished product. the whole procedure is exhaustive, considerate and labor intensive. gehry, however, puts zero effort into his work, and this lack of thought can be seen throughout all of the shitty work he puts forth, just read about some of the problems his buildings have. they interact poorly with their sites, hardly suit the purpose of the interior and are altogether badly constructed. with this in mind, watch him in action and tell me you still appreciate his work afterwords:

  29. i’ve always said that Gehry was just a huge fan of “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, Which, I suppose is funny in light of a Gehry ‘brain’ facility. Caligari’s asylum was crooked and creepy just like this building is.

  30. Is it historically possible that Mr. Gehry will end up being seen as “Solieri” to I.M. Pei’s, “Mozart”?

  31. For everyone who loves the yurt, Bill Coperthwaite is your man. He’s a very interesting character who was inspired by the yurt and began to adapt it to simple construction methods in wood. He’s got some nice designs that are meant to be built in a weekend by unskilled volunteers. Great for community gathering places. Also has more complex designs that make cozy, pleasing durable homes.

  32. It also really doesn’t convey a sense of reliability, reassurance or dependability. Whimsy in medicine? No thanks.

  33. zomg, R’lyeh is rising – we are all doomed!

    “Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something very close to it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces – surfaces too great to belong to anything right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and hieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it suggests something Wilcox had told me of his awful dreams. He said that the geometry of the dream-place he saw was abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours. Now an unlettered seaman felt the same thing whilst gazing at the terrible reality.

    Johansen and his men landed at a sloping mud-bank on this monstrous Acropolis, and clambered slipperily up over titan oozy blocks which could have been no mortal staircase. The very sun of heaven seemed distorted when viewed through the polarising miasma welling out from this sea-soaked perversion, and twisted menace and suspense lurked leeringly in those crazily elusive angles of carven rock where a second glance showed concavity after the first showed convexity.”

  34. Regardless of how polarizing Gehry’s buildings are I wish Detroit had one — Detroit is in desperate need of some seriously off-the-wall architecture.

  35. I’d rather a plainer building and the extra money going into actual research rather or directly helping people than paying a celebrity architect’s hideous fees and the horrible cost overruns this sort of stuff always entails.

    Then there’s usually tons more cost down the line to make the place liveable, workable, stop dozens of leaks because the stuff won’t fit together etc.

  36. Few remember but Gehry designed The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim Las Vegas about a decade ago. Some of what he did foreshadowed this work:

    Guggenheim Las Vegas Art Of The Motorcycle Exhibit

  37. Frank Gehry is an unmatched genius. Those who do not understand his architecture do not understand architecture at all. He has moved architecture light years forward from the staid, boring glass skyscraper boxes or traditional pretend-historical knock-offs we see in most buildings. He will go down in history as one of the greatest architects ever. He is now 81 years old!! Who will take his place? We will all miss his creative genious someday and wish he was back making more buildings that people actually remember and discuss.

  38. esto realmente es arquitectura representativa,el Brain Health building se relaciona directamente con su uso, Frank desarrolla su proyecto utilizado el concepto de alzehimer como la distorision de la realidad.

    Saludos desde chile

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