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Education The Almighty Buck

MIT Sues Frank Gehry Over Buggy $300M CS Building 388

theodp writes "MIT has filed a negligence suit against world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, charging that flaws in his design of the $300 million Stata Center, one of the most celebrated works of architecture unveiled in years, caused leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, and drainage to back up. The complex, which houses a Who's Who of Computing including Tim Berners-Lee and Richard Stallman, includes the William H. Gates Building."
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MIT Sues Frank Gehry Over Buggy $300M CS Building

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  • by stranger_to_himself ( 1132241 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:27AM (#21266465) Journal

    next time they should hire a civil engineer ...

    I think the trick is to get both.

  • by featheredfrog ( 94181 ) <> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:39AM (#21266623) Homepage
    Witness: [] - another Gehry monstrosity. A performing Arts Center with no shops nor dressing rooms directly accessible to backstage.

  • Re:flakey architects (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fast Thick Pants ( 1081517 ) <> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:44AM (#21266681)
    Frank Lloyd Wright also has a college campus that's falling apart [], but at least it held together for a little longer than Gehry's.
  • by murderlegendre ( 776042 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:45AM (#21266689)

    Gehry won't be receiving much sympathy from the residents of Minneapolis, who are forced to live with the Weisman Museum. The 'tin man' as it's known is sore-thumb public eyesore #1 in the U of M campus area.

    Eyesore - figuratively and literally. Not only is this one of the ugliest, most mis-placed pieces of architecture in the metro, its reflective stainless steel skin blinds drivers crossing the Washington Avenue bridge in the late afternoon, when the sun is behind them and they're headed eastbound. Nice planning, folks.

    Oh, and about the skin.. it's badly wrinkled, due to "unforeseen" issues with thermal expansion and contraction. Basically, the building looks like a crushed aluminum take-out box, about to litter itself into the Mississippi river.

  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn ( 1126837 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:50AM (#21266771)
    From the article: "Snow and ice cascaded dangerously from window boxes and other projecting roof areas, blocking emergency exits and damaging other parts of the building, according to the suit."

    This exact same problem is encountered every year at Gehry's Peter B Louis Building on the CWRU campus. We call the building the metal kleenex box, because it looks like a wavy brick building with a lot of useless big metal waves coming out in every direction from the top. The problem is that in the winter, these metal waves get covered in snow, which inevitably slides off onto the people below (Gehry strategically placed the largest such avalanche directly above one of the two main sidewalks on that corner).
  • Gehry (Score:4, Informative)

    by EveryNickIsTaken ( 1054794 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:50AM (#21266773)
    I work for a fortune 500 luxury goods company that recently had Gehry design *jewelry*, of all things. Let's just say that the line is on the verge of being cancelled due to poor sales - many of the items are already discontinued. Sure, the stuff is interesting to look at, but much of it is impractical to wear. I'm not at all surprised that the guy's designed a building that's practically falling apart.
  • Re:flakey architects (Score:3, Informative)

    by truesaer ( 135079 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:46AM (#21267567) Homepage
    An architect could only win a lawsuit about the color of the walls if they got the owners to sign a contract saying they couldn't change the color of the walls. Don't sign dumb contracts is the lesson I suppose...
  • by ShatteredArm ( 1123533 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:53AM (#21267715)
    At the very least, a civil engineer should've been hired to do a cursory check on things that the architecture might not have considered, such as gravity. Architects are like web designers, i.e., they design pretty interfaces rather than build infrastructures. They're artists, not engineers. I'm not too familiar with how these buildings are done, but don't they have a team of engineers involved to make sure things like this don't happen?
  • by BearRanger ( 945122 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @12:32PM (#21268291)
    Where Gehry's building houses Paul Allen's Experience Music Project and Science Fiction museum. []

    The pictures here don't show the true horror. The television news reporters across the street refer to this building as "the technicolor hemorrhoid."

  • by paanta ( 640245 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @12:37PM (#21268399) Homepage
    I don't think you understand how buildings like this are designed and constructed. Architects on projects like this always, always, always work with qualified structural engineers either on staff or from an outside consulting agency. This _isn't_ a failure of an individual architect. It's a failure of a full-service firm that coordinates activities across the full spectrum, from conceptual stuff to engineering all the way down the line to (presumably) the guys putting in the rivets. An architect can't do all the work, but neither can an engineer or a construction manager.

    Challenging buildings like this work out all the time (see Arup) and there's nothing that says you have to have a boring building in order for the roof not to leak. It just costs more. Obviously someone was cutting corners in there somewhere.
  • by ShatteredArm ( 1123533 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @01:16PM (#21269043)
    I'm not talking about some crappy tripod website where one guy does the whole entire site. If you've got any decent sized project, you're going to have infrastructure people who do the business logic, data access, and other technical stuff, and the design people who choose the color, build the layout, color the menus, and create the graphics. Generally if you have the design people doing the infrastructure, you end up with a bad infrastructure, and if you have the infrastructure people doing the design, you end up with a bad design. Web designers who claim they are engineers are the liars.

    The point is, a design/architectural role is completely different than an engineering role. The architect isn't hired for his engineering abilities, but for his artistic talent, whereas the engineer is hired not for artistic talent but the ability to make it actually work. Obviously you'd expect an architect to have a rudimentary understanding of civil engineering so that he can filter out impractical ideas, but you can't rely on the architect to do the real engineering work.
  • Re:flakey architects (Score:3, Informative)

    by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @01:21PM (#21269117)
    NO. Architecture is "work for hire." The architect can maintain copyright on the drawings and plans, and they might even have elements in the structure trademarked. They cannot prevent an owner from changing a building, but they can prevent the owner from saying it is a _ building when making changes.
  • by IllForgetMyNickSoonA ( 748496 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:19PM (#21271863)
    Yes, architects do learn some basics about mechanical engineering (actually about statics). This does not, however, by any stretch of imagination, qualify them as civil or structural engineers. The reason they learn about it is to make sure they don't TOTALLY screw it up before sending their plans to the civil engineer.

    Take that from my mouth: my wife is an architect, her brother is a civil/structural engineer. :-)

    I just talked to my wife about it, and she confirmed, that the civil engineer can overrule the architect only if the building in question is actually a bridge. In case of buildings like this one, the architect can basically tell the civil engineer to shove it and carry on with implementation of his idea. Except if there are some SERIOUS structural problems with the building, making it not safe, in which case the civil engineer does have the means to stop the raging architect from killing innocent bystanders.

    HOWEVER, the part where you said "many competent civil and structural engineers all signed off on the plans for that building" is also correct! No building is built without a permission from the city engineering office (or whatever you call it), and those guys can NOT be overruled by an architect. They can be bribed, but not overruled :-). Only filing a suit against the architect does not show a real understanding of the house building process.

    DISCLAIMER: what I wrote above holds for the large parts of (western) Europe. In the USA, the things might be different.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein