Oddities and Exploration

When I was a kid I went every now and then to a massive playground built onto the side of a hill in a suburb of Minneapolis. This place was spectacular: an intricate series of ascending wooden platforms connected by staircases, ladders, and rope bridges, all capped off with a massive slide all the way down to the base of the playground. The best part of the place, though, was under and around the main structure. You could jump over a railing, or off a platform, and find yourself in a tremendously cool underworld with (to a six year old) nearly unlimited potential for exploration.

This is probably why I love the interiors of some incredibly odd, unnecessarily complicated buildings, or why my favorite part of old churches is usually the crypt
(also because that's where they keep the interesting dead people). A case in point is Frank Gehry's Stata Center at M.I.T. in Cambridge, MA (at right). I have the same problem with the exterior that I have with a lot of Frank Gehry's work: namely, that it's clunky, gimmicky, arrogant, impractical and, bizarrely for such expensive work, kind of cheap looking.

Of course, it's easy to make the same criticisms of the interior of the building, especially on the impractical front (below are two photos of the interior, including one of the author being dripped on by Mr. Gehry).
But for all it's flaws, it's just damn good fun to explore. There are so many nooks and crannies, so many seemingly nonsensical hallways, doors, and open spaces, that you could spend hours just meandering through the thing. Let's face it: most of us still really want secret passageways and rotating fireplaces in our homes, and a contemporary building that lets you feel like you can go off the beaten path and explore is a rare treat.

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