This evening at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the celebrated architect Frank Gehry talked about his life and works under the questioning of Thomas Pritzker.
Until nearly the end, it was entirely captivating. Gehry was funny, illuminating, vivid, unpretentious-seeming. Over the years I've highly valued chances to hear people at the absolute top of their fields, to compare the experiences of hearing them speak about what they do. Some of them are as good to listen to as they had been to admire from afar. Others (often actors, athletes, visual artists) have no way of conveying in conversation what makes them so impressive in their own metier. Gehry is in the "good talker" category.
(Photo of Frank Gehry by Trent Nelson of the Salt Lake Tribune)
Then the questions from the audience began. The second or third was from a fairly insistent character whose premise was that great "iconic" buildings nonetheless fell short as fully attractive and effective "public places," where people were drawn to congregate and spend time. He said he was challenging Gehry to do even more to make his buildings attractive by this measure too.
Gehry didn't like the question and said that the indictment didn't apply to his own buildings. He said that the facts would back him up -- and as the questioner repeated the challenge, Gehry said that he found the question "insulting."