Interview: Frank Gehry on His Hall Winery Design and More

By  July 30, 2007

As an immediate gratification kind of girl I don’t usually attend groundbreaking ceremonies. But when I received an invitation to head to Napa Valley’s Hall Winery to see the plans for their new facilities, slated for completion in 2010, I couldn’t possibly decline. The lure was simple: the opportunity to meet Frank Gehry, who is commonly referred to as the world’s greatest living architect.

(FYI, he designed, among other structures, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Disney Concert Hall in L.A., as seen below.)

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Introducing The Newly Proposed Frank Gehry-Designed Hall Winery

At the red-carpet event, Gehry’s architectural plan, consisting of mostly glass shaded by a giant trellis that will either be made of concrete or wood, was unveiled. It’s an exceptional design that will certainly be a welcomed departure from the profusion of French chateaux and Italian villas.

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There was a lightning fast groundbreaking ceremony attended by Craig and Kathryn Hall, Frank Gehry, and his business partner Edwin Chan…

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Photo by Marty Katz

And a staged chat between the Halls, Chan, Gehry, and Margit Mondavi (Robert’s wife–and Napa Valley’s most gracious major player).

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There was also tons of chic lounge furniture, crowds of people, and tons of food and wine. But what really rocked my Friday world was the opportunity to meet Gehry and find out what he’s all about.

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photo by Marty Katz


Sitting down with the 78-year-old living legend within the decked out current Hall facilities—with club music blaring in the background and more than 20 models showcasing the design evolution mounted in an exhibit room—me and a few other journalists peppered him with questions about his Napa project, his inspirations, and his thoughts on contemporary architecture.

Here are some of the spoken highlights:

Tell us about the design.
“California is filled with trellised things, so this was an opportunity to explore those elements….It is very traditional. It’s a beautiful trellis that floats cloud-like over the landscape. It’s very subtle and not at all pushy….The trellis to become the building is a surprise to us. We didn’t start out like that.”

Where’s the metal?
“We do what’s appropriate. We don’t have any religious theory about metal. Relating to mountains and nature, this was the logical design direction….I don’t know why everybody thinks we’re going to use titanium. We only used it on two buildings. I like titanium, but it’s expensive!”

What do you think about those who consider your proposal controversial?
“I worry about being a good neighbor, but being a good neighbor is not to copy the neighbor. That is to trivialize it. We seem to be in denial about the ugliness that surrounds us, but when somebody tries to do something different, it’s a problem…In Bilbao [home to the Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum], there was a candlelight vigil protesting me. Now they welcome me with open arms.”

You turn down projects all the time. Why did you take on Hall Winery?
“It made it very interesting to us that [the Halls] are interested in art, their political biases are like mine. They do something I respect and I want to be a part of it. And they’re making the nectar of the gods!”

Who inspires you?
“Everybody that has done anything over the course of time.”
Do you have a Eureka moment when you are designing?
“The process is slower, like watching paint dry.”
How many projects are you working on right now?
“10. Five are in the design stage.”
Do you have any advice for communities that want to make the approval process better in relation to green-lighting new architecture?
“Democracy is complicated. It’s worth it, though.”
***

By the way, if you can’t wait until 2010 to see the structure and are passing through Napa Valley, you can contact Hall Winery and schedule a $25 tour of the Gehry project. Give ‘em a call at 707-967-2620.

Had to throw this image in just for fun. It’s me with Margrit Mondavi. She is by far Napa’s greatest party girl and was kind enough to give my book “The Last-Minute Party Girl: Fashionable, Fearless, and Foolishly Simple Entertaining” an awesome back-cover plug.

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photo by Marty Katz

–Erika Lenkert
[tags]Frank Gehry, Napa Valley, design, Edwin Chan, Hall Winery, Kathryn Hall, Craig Hall, winery[/tags]