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Binoculars complete Frank Gehry’s design vision

Justine Sambrook

Frank Gehry used a giant pair of binoculars to unite his office buildings for Chiat/Day in a design no-one could overlook

Chiat/Day offices Los Angeles, 1991.
Chiat/Day offices Los Angeles, 1991. Credit: Oliver Perrott / RIBA Collections

Chiat/Day offices, Los Angeles, 1991

The unexpected facade of this office building in Venice, Los Angeles, completed in 1991, is said to have been created in a moment of pure serendipity. The architect, Frank Gehry, needed to demonstrate to his client how a third structure could unite the two disparate elements of his design – one a white, ship-like block peppered with openings, the other a copper-clad forest of rectangular columns and diagonal beams. He reached across his desk for a maquette of a theatre and library in the shape of a pair of binoculars – by his friends the sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen – and the audacious design was complete. The design’s eclectic combination of artistic and architectural styles sets the building apart even in a city very familiar with Gehry’s work. The binoculars themselves are not merely decorative but contain conference rooms in each lens with the eyepieces functioning as skylights. The building was designed for Chiat/Day, one of the USA’s leading advertising agencies in late 20th century, which decamped after just five years when the novel hot desking concept it was designed around didn’t work for it. Fittingly, it now houses Google.