Planned Demolition of Gehry Building Sparks Controversy

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UC Irvine administrators have decided to demolish a building designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, but this decision has not come without controversy.
The 17,800 square-foot Information and Computer Sciences Engineering Research Facility and a neighboring building designed by Gehry’s student Rebecca Binder are said to be deteriorating.
The proposed demolition will take place next July, followed by the construction
of the 150,000 square-foot Engineering 3 Building.
This decision has troubled some fans of Gehry, who is best known for designing the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Spain. They say that since Gehry is such a notable architect, to destroy an early example of his work will hurt UCI’s reputation as an academic institution.
Vivian Au, a second-year psychology major, felt that the decision to take down the buildings was unwise, as UCI has few architecturally distinguishing features.
‘There are few buildings that are constructed by distinguished architects,’ Au said. ‘It would be nice to preserve such a building.’
However, Richard Demerjian, UCI director of campus planning, said that the Gehry building is no longer suitable for use.
‘The buildings were constructed of wood frame and stucco that are not considered a permanent building type in an institutional setting such as the UCI Academic Core,’ Demerjian said.
The Gehry building suffers from problems including leaking roofs, failing ventilation and dry rot, according to Demerjian.
Problems with exterior waterproofing have resulted in water penetration and structural deterioration,’ Demerjian said. ‘The roofing is deteriorating. The building exterior cladding and water proofing systems are failing. The building mechanical system is inadequate and the exterior wood stairs have dry rot.’
The buildings, constructed in 1986, were relatively inexpensive at just under $2 million. The cheapness of their construction is one of the factors that has led to the deterioration of the buildings.
‘The buildings were constructed of inexpensive material at a time when no state funds were available for larger, more permanent facilities,’Demerjian said. ‘[The buildings] are no longer considered long lasting in an institutional setting.’
Demerjian assured, however, that students and faculty who currently use the facility are not in immediate danger.
\”I am not aware of any condition in the buildings that would make them unsafe for faculty or students at this time,’ Demerjian said.
UCI’s growing population also played a factor in the decision to demolish the Gehry buildings, which provide inadequate space for classes.
‘These classrooms do not meet current campus standards,’ Demerjian said. ‘Based on the consideration of the amount and type of space provided by the IERF and the Computer Science Engineering buildings, and the long-term space needs of the School of Engineering, the UCI administration determined that replacement of these two buildings with the Engineering 3 Building best serves the long-term interests of the campus.’
The Engineering 3 project will be led by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum Architects. Construction on the new building will begin in 2006.

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