- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

Architect Frank Gehry's revised, modernistic design for renovation of the Corcoran Gallery and College of Art and Design and its new wing won approval this week from the Commission of Fine Arts.
One of the main changes from the old design was reorienting the Corcoran's principal entrance to New York Avenue NW while keeping the original, 17th Street entrance open.
The original 1999 design for the entrance, which looked like billowing ribbons, proved controversial. Mr. Gehry altered it at the direction of the Corcoran and unpublicized recommendations of the commission.
The new building now will feature three large ribbonlike panels of steel in front.
"The new, more reserved and compressed design for the entry is still like the sails of a sailboat. I'm a sailor and I like the sense of movement these elements give," Mr. Gehry says.
Mr. Gehry believes the most important part of his design is to link the landmark 1897 Beaux Arts building that currently houses the Corcoran and its new building and to coordinate the new wing with that of a nearby building.
"Our design must hold hands with the two neighbors," he says.
The architect's design adds about 140,000 square feet of flexible space for classrooms, galleries, a restaurant, shop and administrative offices.
Mr. Gehry did voice concerns about the Corcoran College. "I didn't want the kids to be shortchanged. Fortunately, we were able to go underground and create a spectacular space. The design will consolidate the college into light-filled studios and classrooms with a central atrium and a signature new entrance," he says.
The architect discussed the metal he will use for the New York Avenue entry. He recommended stainless steel because of cost considerations but favors the more expensive titanium he used for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain.
"Titanium does beautiful things in gray light and takes on a golden color. But it's a lot more money," he says.
Local architect Elena Sturdza, principal of Sturdza Architects, raised one of the few objections to Mr. Gehry's design. "The metal entry reminds me too much of planes crashing into buildings as they did on September 11," she says.
Commission Chairman Carter Brown, who is former director of the National Gallery of Art, overruled her.
"The new design is like Matisse's late cutouts. It just gets better and better," he says.
The Corcoran now can move into the next phases of the project, such as producing construction documents. David Levy, Corcoran president and director, estimates this could take another 18 months to 24 months.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2003 and completion in 2006.
A little more than half of the $120 million cost has been raised by the private gallery and college.

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