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Signifying Robot: What do you think the Walker looks like?

Love it or not, the aluminum-clad Walker expansion is fertile ground for creative description. It’s been likened to Miss Pac-Man, an “angry robot head,” and a Transformer of toy and cartoon fame. It’s been panned as a “bruised ice cube” (by the Guthrie Theater actor who played Ebenezer Scrooge) and praised as “a rough-cut gem” […]

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Love it or not, the aluminum-clad Walker expansion is fertile ground for creative description. It’s been likened to Miss Pac-Man, an “angry robot head,” and a Transformer of toy and cartoon fame. It’s been panned as a “bruised ice cube” (by the Guthrie Theater actor who played Ebenezer Scrooge) and praised as “a rough-cut gem” (Icon, UK) and “as light and luscious as crumpled silk” (Newsweek). Last summer, I asked people passing by how they’d describe the unusual facade; since it never ended up in the magazine, I’ll run some of the replies here. Feel free to add your own in comments.

“It looks like that ship from Star Wars, where they found R2-D2 and C3PO.”

–Bob Bodin, houseman, 20.21 Restaurant and Bar by Wolfgang Puck

“It’s like aluminum foil, flat, but crumpled a little. Like something you’d find in your grandma’s freezer.”

–Erica Qualy, former member of the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council

“It looks like a monkey.”

–Max Molina

“It looks like a giant square with a little edge that’s kind of crooked.”

–Madi Molina

“I think it looks like a really mad polar bear.”

–Gus Molina

“It looks like a space port, just like the one I saw on Mars that one time.”

–Paul Molina

“It’s like a floating ice cube. The windows were inspired by snowflake cutouts, so the architects must have had this winter thing in their minds. It’s like January in Minnesota.”

–Nancy Beach, Walker tour guide

“The new Walker looks like a glacier.”

–Brett Smith, Visitors Services Specialist, Film/Video

“It reminds me of Frank Gehry’s outdoor amphitheater at Millennium Park in Chicago.”

–Chris Bettis

“It’s like a giant robot head. And the rest of the robot is submerged underground, so when the Walker gets enough funding, the whole thing’s going to rise up and attack the city. The buildings are going to battle like in those Japanese movies.”

–Alison Bromander

“It looks like a metallic grasshopper.”

–Liz Sexton, Visitors Services Specialist, PR/Marketing

“Have you ever heard of the band godheadSilo?”

–Chad Weber, gallery monitor

  • Prof. Emeritus Fredrick W. Bunce, M.F.A., Ph.D. says:

    Saw the “New-New Walker!” I must say it makes me feel old! Not that I am anything but!

    I can clearly remember the “Old Walker” with Lipschitz’s “Prometheus” out front and the grand staircase splitting half way up to the north and the south galleries of the second floor. It was there that I saw my first Kline, my first Albright!

    Then there was the “New Walker!” The Larrabee Barnes structure was, to me a marvel–simple, elegant and eminently suited for the display of man’s creative expression! If you felt fatigued, you could take the elevator to the eighth floor and leisurely walk down from one gallery to another until the lobby was reached. If on the other hand you were full of vim, vigor and vitality, you could climb from one marvel to the other until you reached the top. It was reminiscent of F.L. Wright’s “Guggenheim,” but angular, moving at right angles.

    Now we have the Herzog & de Meuron “New-New Walker!” The brochure describes them as “award winning Swiss architects” . . . almost as though it was a necessary bit of information in order to make the “New-New Walker” acceptable! Well, to my mind, the “New-New Walker” ain’t the marvelous “Allianz Stadium,” Munich nor the exciting new “Olympic Stadium,” Beijing, both designed by Herzog & de Meuron. These two stadia both appear from their exterior to be singular works. Indeed the Munich structure apparently functions quite well for the purpose for which it was designed. One assumes that the “Olympic Stadium,” Beijing, will also be similar. However, the “New-New Walker” is something else. From the exterior the “South Tower” and the “North Tower” neither compliment each other, nor do they clash! They appear to coexist in some sort of aesthetic limbo! The crumpled metal covering of the “South Tower” seem to mimick Gehry’s “Bilbao Guggenheim’s” titanium skin, but without the panache of Gehry! Frankly, it appears as a malignant growth!

    Progressing from the “New Walker” to the “New-New Walker” was somewhat disquieting, nearly vertiginous, certainly mildly hallucinatory! I had entered the “New-New Walker” from the “New Walker.” That may have been a mistake! I was suddenly thrust into a space in which there were no parallel, or perpendicular walls, or level floors. Doorways were tetrahedrons, walls leaned out, or in as though the structure had been realigned by some capricious earthquake. Here I was in some sort of a high tech fun house–ala the state fair! It simply doesn’t work in this situation.

    Please, don’t get me wrong! I find many pieces of modern architecture exciting. Prague’s “Dancing House” by Vlado Milunc and Frank Gehry is to me a marvel! Gaudi’s “Casa Mila” is also a spectacular example of architecture which negates the perpendicular.

    Herzog & de Meuron are certainly world class architects–but they are not within that rarified realm where everything they touch is without equal in its perfection. The spaces from the top to the bottom flow or exist in a logical sequence. However, the small octagonal windows on the north side of the “South Tower” are without reason and appear as pimples from the outside, signifying nothing. Again they seem as a poorly conceived mimick of the angled windows of the “North Tower” exploding outward with their broad vistas. Aesthetic egoism is a phrase that comes to mind after staggering through the “New-New Walker.” Spatially, the Herzog & de Meuron edition is quite pleasing, but interior treatment can only be described as “decoration gone mad!” As an architectural statement the “New-New Walker” is garbled and disturbingly incoherent.

    Fredrick W. Bunce, M.F.A., Ph.D.

    Professoor Emeritus

    Indiana State University

    2 Jalan 8/144A

    Taman Bukit Cheras

    Kuala Lumpur, 56000

    MALAYSIA;

  • Rich says:

    “Academic egoism” is a phrase that comes to mind when witnessing the repeated honorifics of Prof. Bunce–Prof.! Emeritus! MFA! Ph.D.!–it’s like “award-winning Swiss architects” or the “new new Walker.” Nonetheless, you can’t accuse the doctor of being rash. He certainly gave the Walker a shot, even if he didn’t like its pimply-windowed goodness, and took the time to share his thoughts!

    Rich

  • from the side it looks like a robot eagle head. glass window eye balls, glass window mouth… most definitely a robot eagle head.

  • i was born in malaysia

  • Agree with this “ It looks like that ship from Star Wars, where they found R2-D2 and C3PO.” :)

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