Exclusive images of Gehry's stunning new project, brought to you by WAN
After years of trying to woo Frank Gehry to design a building in Las Vegas, which the architect has refused to do on countless occasions, the city finally gets its Gehry. While the signature steel forms of the Lou Ruvo Center may at first suggest the building is just another Gehry project, think again. What distinguishes this Gehry design from the rest is that it is the only one for hire, not to mention that the building has received critical praise from the Los Angeles Times architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, as having the most impressive Gehry-designed interior space since the architect’s Disney Concert Hall in 2003.
The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which officially opened Friday, is a leading research centre for degenerative brain diseases. Gehry agreed to design the building only after discovering he shared a bond with its founder, Larry Ruvo. Both men suffered personal losses to degenerative brain diseases. Ruvo lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease and Gehry’s analyst’s wife succumbed to Huntington’s disease. United in tragedy, the two men set out to design a world-class brain research center in the desert, gambling on the clinic’s excellent reputation and Gehry’s star power to ensure its success.
The $100 million complex comprises two wings connected by an open courtyard: a dedicated research center, located at the northern end of the building, and a ‘for-hire’ event space, dubbed the Life Activity Center, located at the southern end. Architecturally, the two spaces are dramatically different and yet together they form a cohesive whole. The four-storey clinic, which houses medical offices, patient rooms and research space, is rational. Clad in stucco and glass and resembling a series of stacked white blocks, it takes on a conventional, rectilinear geometry. By contrast, the Life Activity Center is a soaring sculptural volume tucked beneath a signature Gehry stainless steel roof. Designed as an event space, it can be rented out for parties, weddings and special occasions with the proceeds going to fund the center’s research.
While the first blush reviews of the building have been good, the expectations for the Center are high and exceed garnering architectural accolades. Las Vegas suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates, 14 percent, in the country. The city sees the clinic, which sits at the far south of Symphony Park, as the catalyst it desperately needs to restart the stalled 60-acre, mixed-use revitalization project. The city also needs to diversify its economy beyond gambling. A major medical centre would be a good start. At the opening, the Cleveland Clinic announced its intentions to expand its focus and its presence in Las Vegas beyond the Ruvo Center, perhaps adding cardiology services next with the future promise of growing a full service hospital there.