Seattle Art Imitates Landfill Life

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Culture, Traffic & Travel
Tags: , , , , , ,

Photos by: Benjamin Benschidenider/ The Seattle Times

Seattle’s Pike Place Market is one of my favorite destinations in the whole wide world, one that is always first on my list to visit whenever I’ve been away from home for too long. In fact, fellow blogger, Jeanne Damoff, from The View From Here, posted some lovely photos of this iconic Seattle landmark here.

The colors, the food, the atmosphere; it’s so unique and welcoming and so Seattle.

But as I take a mental tour of the market and all my other favorite places in the city, my thoughts inevitably turn to another, more recently inaugurated Seattle landmark: the horrific eyesore of the Experience Music Project (EMP).

Opened in 2000, the EMP website calls this hideous tribute to architectural train wrecks, a “spectacular, prominently visible structure” that has “the presence of a monumental sculpture set amid the backdrop of the Seattle Center.”

Prominently visible? Yes, it is hard to miss, but a monumental sculpture? Maybe if a failed open heart surgery patient left open on an otherwise pristine hospital gurney is considered art.

After a long absence from my hometown, I remember spotting the building for the first time on a drive back into the city. There it stood, smack dab in the middle of the beautiful Seattle skyline, this 140,000 square foot monstrosity. It literally looked like a multicolored, metal trash bin that had been disfigured by a crashing meteor.

"And here we see the famous Seattle Monorail exiting the fallopian tube..."

According the EMP Wiki, designer, Frank O. Gehry, is said to have experimented with LSD while listening to Jimi Hendrix’s music for inspiration on this project. This could just be a rumor, but that would explain a lot.

Gehry, along with the git who hired him, should’ve had his drafting pencil and access to blue prints taken away after the EMP. The man has designed some stunning works of art such as The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. These are just a few examples of his ability to create form as well as function… and when I say “function,” I mean  something not looking like a drug-induced blemish on the surrounding landscape.

The EMP, however, which looks similar to his Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Alava, Spain, is just debris slapped with the label of expressive modern art. I feel more compelled to dismantle it for scrap metal than waste $15 to see what it looks like inside.

The founders and money men behind EMP, Microsoft and Paul Allen, would have been better off spending their reported $240 million dollars building another useless monorail or, better yet, expanding the Pike Place Market and Seattle waterfront. I know rich a-holes like to invest in art, but the EMP is not art; it’s proof that architects shouldn’t always try to be artists and that having money doesn’t necessarily provide you with good taste.

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  1. cala4lily says:

    I completely agree with your assessment. I was still living in Seattle when it first opened and was horrified at the hideousness of it all which is made all the more glaring by the beauty of the city itself. The poor Space Needle probably wishes it could run off an hide in shame.

    • natinanorton says:

      You know what’s funny? You can take photos of the EMP and at certain, close up angles, it’s… nice. Step back a few feet though and you get the blob. I wonder if the designers ever took a few steps back during construction, realized their mistake, but then figured, ‘ah, what the hell. Too late now.’

      To see the EMP in all it’s horrific glory, I highly recommend it from 1-5.


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