Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health, Las Vegas, designed by Frank Gehry (roof addition by Netti & Rosebank)

There are literally dozens and dozens of Frank Gehry-designed buildings scattered across the globe and more in the pipeline. Even Sydney’s University of Technology has acquired its own Gehry.

As brilliant and talented as Frank Gehry is, there’s a sameness about all those leant-over facades, distorted planes and bug-eyed windows. A handful of highly distinctive buildings by a great architect is brilliant but too many that look too alike is too much. They almost warrant their own collective noun, perhaps a Jaded of Gehrys.

I wonder if in twenty years we’ll look at his buildings in the same slightly baffled and embarrassed way we look back on other era-specific icons like platform shoes. And perhaps in forty years we’ll look at them with reverence again.

Frank Lloyd Wright was far more prolific than Gehry, yet he doesn’t induce the same sense of fatigue. He designed more than a thousand buildings and built around 500.

I think a lot of that is because most of Wright’s works were detached houses rather than major public buildings. They were (relatively) modest and simply don’t get the same exposure.

Another reason is while Wright’s buildings were distinctive, their raison d’être wasn’t to astonish or amaze. They present themselves more as a Finesse of FLWs. The shock of the new is finite and short – the impact of high drama soon runs out and weariness (Gehryiness?) sets in.

Wright also displayed considerable versatility – look for example at the difference in appearance between the NY Guggenheim and the proposed Arizona State Capital. Or compare and contrast the Robie house, the Rookery, Falling Water and the Ennis house.

It’s arguable, but I don’t think he was as predictable as Gehry. The problem for Gehry is that when your schtick is to be astonishing, it’s pretty hard to be anything but predictable.

The exhibit shows the Gehry-designed Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health. It’s a fantastic looking building in many ways (although I hope the medicos thought through whether its fractured form is an appropriate image for patients with degenerative brain disease).

It’s much better looking without the bicycle helmet – some wag added the headwear with photo processing software (H/T Michael O’Reilly). He also added this comment:

Other officials at the scene were surprised this happened despite the use of reflective materials, which experts agree reduce the risk of collisions. No witnesses have come forward to confirm who or what collided with the building. Mahoney added, “Well at least the facility had a helmet on, who knows how much worse it could have been without one.”

The image has been picked up by others who have something to say about the continuing bicycle helmet debate. I suppose the argument is that a helmet is about as useful for your head as it is for a building. Maybe also the weight of the helmet is crushing the building like helmets are crushing cycling?

I like Frank Gehry and at 82 he’s way too young to give up architecture. But I wish he’d find a new schtick. He might take note of these words by an artist who’s reinvented himself a few times over a long career: “My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet”.