Chiat/Day Building, Venice, CaliforniaBinoculars in Venice, California: Building or Sculpture?. Photo by Witold Skrypczak/Lonely Planet Images Collection/Getty Images
If you Google "Chiat/Day Building," you'll get search results for what is commonly known as the Binoculars Building. One look at this memorable structure, and you know why. But the alarmingly accurate field glasses design is just one part of a three-part complex of buildings. Today, the search engine and internet giant itself-Google Los Angeles-occupies office space in this southern California real estate.
About the Binoculars (Chiat/Day) Building:
Clients: Advertisers Jay Chiat (1931-2002) and Guy Day (1930-2010)
Location: 340 Main Street, Venice, CA 90291
Artists & Architects: Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen, and Frank Gehry
Binocular Dimensions: 45 x 44 x 18 feet (13.7 x 13.4 x 5.5 meters)
Construction Material of Binoculars: Steel frame with painted concrete/cement plaster exterior and gypsum plaster interior
Architectural Style: a type of novelty, postmodern architecture called mimetic architecture
Design Idea: For an academic project in Italy, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen had made a small model of "a theater and library in the form of standing pair of binoculars." The project went unbuilt, and the model ended up in Frank Gehry's office.
How did field glasses become part of the building complex for the Chiat/Day Advertising Agency? Blame it on Gehry.
Art or Architecture? Frank Gehry's Chiat/Day ComplexThe Chiat/Day Building Complex in Venice, California. ©Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons 3.0 Unported CC-By-SA-3.0
"From the beginning of my adult life," Frank Gehry has told journalist Barbara Isenberg, "I always related more to artists than to architects." Architect Gehry has been longtime friends with many modern artists, including the late sculptor Coosje van Bruggen and her artist husband Claes Oldenburg, creators of the Binoculars Building.
The two artists are well-known for their large sculptures of common objects-a clothespin, an apple core (on display at Kentuck Knob), a typewriter eraser, a badminton shuttlecock-all stunningly realistic (and amusing) works of pop art. It seemed a natural progression for the pair to turn their "art" into "architecture" with Gehry's assistance.
Frank Gehry was building a model of an office complex. He had his ideas formulated for two of the buildings that would become home to Chiat/Day advertising agency-"one boat-like, the other tree-like" according to van Bruggen and Oldenburg. As he showed the model to Jay Chiat and Guy Day, Gehry needed a third structure to tie together the complex. The story goes that he picked up the artists' binoculars model they left in his office and playfully fit it between the two buildings to show his clients what he meant by a uniting third building. This extemporaneous example was an idea that stuck.
Are the binoculars really a functional part of the building complex? You bet. Besides being the entryway to the parking garage, the occupiable art "house two of the coolest conference rooms in the building," says Google, the current tenants.
- Claes Oldenburg (October Files), edited by Nadja Rottner, MIT Press, 2012
- Binoculars at //oldenburgvanbruggen.com accessed March 4, 2015
- Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, Knopf, 2009, p. 55
- Binoculars at //oldenburgvanbruggen.com; Google Los Angeles accessed March 4, 2015
- Inline photo of Apple Core sculpture by sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen at Kentuck Knob © Jackie Craven