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September 2, 2014

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Beyond the box

Gehry-designed structure taking shape

Image

Leila Navidi

An image of the finished rendering of the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute covers the fence surrounding the building under construction Tuesday at Union Park in downtown Las Vegas.

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The Lou Ruvo Brain Institute is under construction at Union Park in downtown Las Vegas

Our deconstructionist masterpiece is under construction.

Known as the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute and designed by Frank Gehry, the 67,000-square-foot structure will be dedicated to the study of diseases that afflict the brain. The building is supposed to be finished next year, but you can see it taking shape now on the corner of Bonneville Avenue and Grand Central Parkway, catty-cornered from the pretty Clark County Government Center and the World Market Center, which looks like an evil cube from space mating with a Nike. So far, the view of Gehry’s building amounts to little from three angles. But looking from a spot on Bonneville, you see the tumbling steel start of a facade that will eventually create the illusion displayed on the fence surrounding the construction: a microwaved plastic Brain Institute.

But not yet. Right now you can still see what the buildings really are: boxes. Some big, some small, many of them stacked, but still: rectangular boxes.

It makes sense. The rectangular box is the basic unit of human habitation. You may have noticed that you mostly live in a box, work in a box and drive in a box. Very functional, boxes. Other shapes — the circle, the triangle, the geodesic dome — have been tried and found wanting.

And so we come to this structure, which is mostly boxes. But they are designed by a famous architect who is famous for putting demented disguises on rectangular boxes.

There is architecture and then there is Frank Gehry architecture, which is to say, there are clothes and then there is Paris Fashion Week. In both, the important bits are (usually) covered but one of them adds ruffles, capes and hats shaped like UFOs secured by nylon face socks.

In other words, genius.

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