The language of buildings, and the language of describing a building to someone who has never encountered it or even seen it in a photograph, are two entirely different things.
And while architects and designers perfect the first, we in the building-admiring public attempt to master the second. Consider the last time you drove a new-to-town visitor by Walt Disney Concert Hall while attempting to capture its style and spirit in a few choice and highly descriptive words.
"Giant silver artichoke" sort of works, but labeling the walk-in masterpieces of architect Frank Gehry has always been rather deliciously impossible, even for fans who've followed the 86-year-old game changer through his half-century-plus career.
No labels shall be required, only looking, when a retrospective celebrating Mr. Gehry's work and vision debuts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Sunday, Sept. 13. The museum points out that the architect's "pioneering work in digital technologies set in motion the practices adopted by the construction industry today," which makes the exhibit not just about a single man but how he dramatically impacted the making of cities.
He calls LA home, which is not surprising, since so many of Mr. Gehry's buildings, regardless of where in the world they stand, bring with them a certain sprinkling of SoCalness: The curves, the surreal, the humor, the aspirational upwardness, the non-adherence to the straight-lined, windows-in-a-row mode of old.
But you won't need to jaunt around the planet to see his many buildings; LACMA will have some 65 models on display and 200-plus photographs.
Will you, upon seeing the models, and perhaps admiring a Gehry work you were unfamiliar with, again reach for words to best describe how it makes you feel? If "giant silver artichoke" fits Walt Disney Concert Hall, imagine the vocabulary you'll need to break out while wandering the exhibit.
"Frank Gehry" is on at the Miracle Mile institution from Sunday, Sept. 13 through March 20, 2016.