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Behold, the Luma Arts Tower, Arles, France; architects: Frank Gehry Anabelle Selldorf, Selldorf Architects. Arles, you recall, was the headquarters of the painter Vincent Van Gogh in his prime (1888-89). And so the idea in recent years has been to stuff the old town near the Mediterranean Sea with arts-related tourist venues. And who is the grand poobah for designing arts museums? Why, Ol’ Frank, who kicked off the craze with his Guggenheim museum replicant in Bilbao, Spain (est. 1993), a fantasia of polished titanium panels that wowed the world. Of course, that was then, this is now. One problem is that post-Covid-19, global tourism is way down, and may never recover — at least not to the degree it was humming pre-Covid-19. We’ll have to stand by on exactly how that works out. The Luma Arts Tower is clad with polished stainless steel panels. Perhaps titanium has become too expensive and a bit fey. “We wanted to evoke the local, from Van Gogh’s Starry Night to the soaring rock clusters you find in the region,” Mr. Gehry told the media. The question with just about all of Mr. Gehry’s masterpieces is: how do you possibly expect to maintain a structure constructed of exotic custom components, and of course, the answer is you probably won’t be able to fix anything that breaks, fails, or ages-out. The decline of tourism will therefore probably shorten its design life. Such is the hubris of our time. In the meantime, enjoy the twinkle!

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

22 Responses to “July 2021”

  1. Sunflower July 5, 2021 at 12:27 pm #

    I can’t imagine having to live or work near that and have to see it every day.

  2. tom clark July 5, 2021 at 4:08 pm #

    Hopefully, this baby will come plummeting earthward as quickly as the Champlain Towers.

  3. holdfastspike July 5, 2021 at 9:50 pm #

    I’ve never seen anything so Alien. I don’t think i would want to be anywhere near it when it opens, has anyone informed the Military?

  4. bymitch July 5, 2021 at 9:55 pm #

    Is E voking or is E vanking?
    I fail to see the connection between this, and ‘Starry Night’.
    There is no doubt the static elements in the painted representation, like the fictitious town, and the silhouette of the cypress, are locally inspired.
    However, It is hard to overlook the subject, the movement captured in the night sky, which is a more universal thing.
    Where is all that, in this, anyway?
    Surely its not the light of the day sky reflected in the stainless steel panels, coz thats something else entirely.
    I see more connection with ‘The Old Cemetery Tower at Nugen’, to be honest.
    My guess is that it is a direct knockoff of the Chateux des Baux ruin, complete with circular moat at the base.
    Now thats something local, that you can mirror, for sure.

  5. tucsonspur July 6, 2021 at 12:09 am #

    The structure at first seems arrogant in its awkwardness, with its angular articulations and jagged jauntiness, but, as depicted here, it gleams like a giant, rugged, golden nugget, certain to be assiduously assayed by architectural critics the world over.

    The eye is indoctrinated and the eye is subjective. What is different is often denounced just because it deviates from the daily drag, and is viewed as if the devil himself had drafted the supposed deformation. Here, however, difference for the most part just deflates. The nugget proves to be fools’ gold.

    Regrettably, this structure is not like the moon, and its hideous backside is always easily viewed:


    A repugnant, repelling eyesore, with the architect’s eye somehow missing his imagination’s abhorrent creation.

    Most importantly, the crumpled look with the shiny steel should have been carried out full about, with maybe some assuaging of the angularity and the addition of one or two more ‘arroyos’ into the facades.

    Near some rocky cliffs would have been a better location for the building, and the cheap looking circular base clashes garishly with the tower’s angularity and only adds to the sense of jumbled geometrics. The dormer like windows could use some alteration. Note the quaint ones in the mansard roof at lower right.

    What could have been achieved here was not. We could have had a tower of twisting, meandering, modernized Mesa Verde or Gila Cliff dwellings scintillating in the sun. Instead, we have an abomination in Arles. Eyeing all of this, would Van Gogh have become earless?

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  6. dowd July 6, 2021 at 5:17 am #

    Frank Gehry’s business is to create new wonder/horrors of the modern world. The latest in Arles stands in stark contrast to the physical and spiritual beauty Van Gogh’s uplifting works.

  7. Chippenhook July 6, 2021 at 7:19 am #

    This has to be one of the ugliest buildings I have ever set eyes on. Words defy me.

    • AKlein July 26, 2021 at 1:18 pm #

      That’s why this execrable pile of feces is so perfect for our times, Chip. No theme, no style, no attempt to edify the human existence, no beauty. Perfect! Devolution and nihilism. It shouts “Lasciate ogni speranza”.

  8. Grace July 6, 2021 at 8:38 am #

    Behold: an example of megalomania writ large. Something must be very wrong with the soul (should he or she have one) of someone who would inflict this on, well, anyone really.

    This thing isn’t architecture, it’s assault. Assault on the eye, assault on the community, assault on the local architecture. He *could* have chosen to build it smaller – no taller than the current skyline – so that at least its ugliness could have been mercifully contained within a particular blighted block or street view (or, in Gehry fan terms, one could ‘delightfully turn the corner and suddenly discover its capricious charms’). But no. In Gehry’s megalomaniac world its hideousness MUST be seen by everyone – with no escape.

    I’ve learned to mistrust anyone outside of Hollywood (those, I mistrust automatically) who completely changes their name for no good reason. Stalking victims have a valid reason – architects not so much. It’s a pattern I’ve been observing for some time, and Mr. Gehry certainly isn’t bucking the trend by any means. Mr. Frank Gehry was born neither Frank nor Gehry. Almost like he knew the things he was going to create would be infamous and shameful.

  9. Grace July 6, 2021 at 9:14 am #

    It seems this building was a collaboration of not one but two megalomaniacs. Quoted from tucsonspur’s link above (thank you tucsonspur):

    “Located not only in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose sole towers, until now, were the belfries of Romanesque churches, but also in the flat landscape of the Camargue, the Tower can be seen from literally miles around. When asked if it was important that her building should dominate its context, Hoffmann shut down all discussion with a peremptory “It was not important to me.” This disingenuousness—as monumental as the building she and Gehry have created—will be further grist for disgruntled locals, who have compared the Tower to a crumpled tin can.”

    As for changing her name, it appears Ms. Hoffmann may somewhat qualify herself. I’m finding a few alternate names that may (*may*) also refer to her: Maya Hoffman, Maja Oeri, Maya Oeri.

    As for tusconspur’s assertion: “What is different […] is viewed as if the devil himself had drafted the supposed deformation”, it turns out Ms. Hoffman is associated with Marina Abramovic: https://www.artnews.com/art-collectors/top-200-profiles/maja-hoffmann/ So perhaps not far off the mark, if at all.

    • tucsonspur July 10, 2021 at 3:53 am #

      Thanks for the link.

  10. BackRowHeckler July 8, 2021 at 8:27 am #

    And what’s the point of this monstrosity? To shock the French Proles who live in the surrounding countryside. The French people have already had enough shocks in the past 20 years.

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  11. Zarko Straadi July 11, 2021 at 6:12 am #

    The rear-view shot linked by tusconspur above shows that Gehry has continued his meta-theme, in which each of his constructs is a physical freeze-frame from a sci-fi horror film about metallic alien mechavores devouring human city-scapes.

    I’m surprised no filmmaker has sought out Gehry for such a film in the same way that James Cameron sought out H.R. Giger to create the iconic designs for the Xenomorphs and the alien vessels for his “Alien” franchise.

    It seems ol’ Frank is still King of the Bizzarechitects.

  12. JackStraw July 13, 2021 at 7:07 am #

    It looks like it’s in mid-transformation from a modern shiny building to some colossal, earth-devouring robot.

    Considering our current state of technological insanity, and the unrestrained advances in robotics, it might be perfectly apropos.

  13. neon sky July 19, 2021 at 9:40 am #

    Architectural vomit.

  14. Lonly1946 July 25, 2021 at 6:33 am #

    This artifact is 92 years old and has a net worth of $175million LUMA Foundation for the skills in the antique Roman town of Arles, France. If want to go then you should view online or buy this website services they provide the best services and contain 50 different languages covering various dialects.

  15. chibia88 July 26, 2021 at 11:57 pm #

    Thank you for your post. I have read through several similar topics! However, your article gave me a very special impression, unlike other articles. I hope you continue to have valuable articles like this or more to share with everyone! paper io 2

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  16. tom clark July 28, 2021 at 5:07 pm #

    See my comment upthread (July 5). 98th (and apparently final) victim unearthed at Champlain Towers. End of story until a more magnificent creation rises from the ashes. As for Gehry? He’s an asshole.

  17. JCalvertNUK July 31, 2021 at 1:23 pm #

    Frank Lloyd Wright said that architectural mistakes can always be covered in vines.
    The first of Gehry’s buildings could be dismissed as a “glorious” mistake. The second was beginning to look like carelessness – and the 3rd and the 4th.
    This one is a confirmation that the architect is suffering from “learning difficulties”.
    Still, it can always be mitigated by draping it tastefully with up-market ‘designer’ solar panels (randomly oriented of course).

  18. HowardBeale August 2, 2021 at 9:26 am #

    Earsore of the Month:

    “I think it harmonizes well with the surroundings.”

    ~Maja Hoffman

  19. My Point of View August 8, 2021 at 2:42 pm #

    Even after eyeballing this for a while it still looks like a stack of billets of crushed aluminum cans at a recycling yard.


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