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A Gehry Library in Deerfield?

By Benjy Lipsman in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 17, 2004 8:34PM

Clockwise: Pritzker Pavilion, Guggenheim Museum, Disney Concert Hall
Chicago is infatuated with Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry thanks to his brilliant work on the Pritzker Pavilion and the BP Bridge in Millennium Park. But Gehry may not be finished gracing the area with his work. According to spokesman Keith Mendenhall, he is "actively exploring" the possibility of designing a library project in Deerfield.

Best know for designing major civic projects such as Chicago's Millennium Park; Bilbao, Spain's Guggenheim Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, a suburban library seems like an odd project for perhaps the world's best known living architect.

But Chicago is shaping up to be a beneficiary of a growing rivalry among some of the world's great architects. Such a project would allow Gehry a chance to respond to Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas' new Seattle Central Library, which has been called the most important new library to be built in decades. In addition to the library in Seattle, Koolhaas has also made news recently with his recent McCormick Tribune Campus Center on Chicago's IIT campus.

"Mr. Gehry wants me to go to Seattle with him to critique the Seattle public library," Deerfield library's director Jack Hicks said. On Wednesday, Hicks is expected to brief its board about his recent meeting with Gehry in Los Angeles.

"For Deerfield--or for Hicks, at least--the project offers a chance to rethink the future of public libraries, which are facing stiff competition from bookstore chains and the Internet."

Deerfield's Village Manager Bob Franz said, "I've got to admit that I'm not that familiar with him or his work." Chicagoist recommends that Franz venture into the big city once in a while and check out Millennium Park, and soon! When asked if village officials were supportive of the effort to bring Gehry to town, he said: "We see the potential. But we just have to see the specifics." While a more expensive proposal than most suburban libraries such a project has the potential to draw interest in Deerfield and increase real estate values throughout the village.

Chicagoist wants to see this project come to fruition -- even if we did grow up in rival Highland Park. It's time to shake up the neo-traditional style too prevalent in suburban redevlopment plans -- including Deerfield's own recent Deerfield Square.