File spoon-archives/avant-garde.archive/avant-garde_1996/96-11-03.013, message 6

Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996 14:29:09 GMT
Subject: Rat Art 1

   Financial Times, September 7, 1996, p. XIV. 
   Mousehouse on show. Disney designs are to star in Venice, 
   says Christopher Parkes 
   Architecture from the Walt Disney Company, a pixilated 
   design form which has sprung from the cartoon storyboard 
   into "real life" service in office buildings and houses, 
   has been selected to represent US artistic endeavour at one 
   of the world's leading art showcases. 
   Works disparaged as 'architorture" in some critical 
   circles, and representing the efforts of three dozen 
   top-rank architects and untold hundreds from Disney's 
   "Imagineering" division, will fill the entire US pavilion 
   at the Venice Biennale. 
   The exhibition. which opens on September 15. is likely to 
   prove a rigorous test for entertainment architecture which 
   has gained some status and recognition in the US. 
   The 150 exhibits will span the 40-plus years between the 
   opening of Disneyland in Anaheim and the recent arrival of 
   the first residents in Celebration. This idealised new town 
   community in Florida planned to foster lost "traditional" 
   social attributes such as walking to the shops and talking 
   to the neighbours. 
   The coup for Disney marks an ingenious response from the 
   Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, a major arts patron which 
   owns the US pavilion in Venice site, to the withdrawal of 
   US government funding for the biennial event. Short of 
   cash, the US Information Agency, which in past years 
   underwrote displays of works by leading artists and 
   architects, has now left the foundation to its own devices. 
   Accordingly, the pavilion which introduced Warhol soup cans 
   to the world's gaze, will this year display a model of 
   Disney's animation studios in Burbank. 
   This building, seen daily by thousands of commuters on the 
   Ventura Freeway, boasts a conical centrepiece decked out as 
   the apprentice sorcerer's hat worn by Mickey Mouse in 
   Fantasia. The roof-line is adapted from the profile of the 
   Mad Hatter's tea-party topper. 
   The structure, which houses offices in the "hats", and 
   studios, and frisbee areas inside its main body where the 
   creative types work, was designed by Robert A.M. Stern, and 
   completed last y ear. Corporate headquarters, home to Mr 
   Michael Eisner, the Disney chairman who 10 years ago was 
   persuaded to scrap his notion for a Mickey Mouse-shaped 
   hotel, will also feature. This jolly item, notable for a 
   roof held up by giant sandstone caryatids modelled on Snow 
   White's seven dwarf co-stars is the work of Mr Michael 
   Despite the designer's reputation for controversial 
   designs, his original drawings were deemed too dull by Mr 
   Eisner, who said the facade looked like a bank. 
   Although the origins of Mousehouse architecture lie, as 
   with most Disney manifestations, with the company's fabled 
   founder, Mr Eisner has been the main driver of its 
   development since he joined the group in 1984. 
   He appointed Mr Stern to the group board as a token of his 
   commitment to the notion that art and popular entertainment 
   can intermingle happily and profitably and his professed 
   desire to do something bolder and "more fun" than making 
   "transitory" films. 
   According to the book *Building a Dream*, to be published 
   to coincide with the biennial opening, there is no shortage 
   of architects willing to take the Disney challenge. 
   "Architecture should not be esoteric," Mr Robert Venturi, 
   one of the fast-growing Mousehouse school said. It should 
   be open to interpretations by many people, he added. "And 
   besides, we like to do architecture that children like." 
   [Photo omitted] The Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland: 
   architectural inspiration 

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