Project DescriptionThe Information and Computer Science/Engineering Research Facility (ICS/ERF) at the University of California at Irvine—an early and energetic P/A Award–winning work by Frank Gehry—was completed in 1986 as designed, and has already been demolished. Its destruction in 2007 represents a loss not only to the architectural profession, but also to the UC Irvine community whose sprawling, suburban campus suffers from a surfeit of big, banal buildings.
Replaced by a larger structure, ICS/ERF was just 18,000 square feet and built on a modest budget ($105 per square foot). Its inexpensive stucco finish, painted metal cladding, and blacktop paving suggest that the university may not have meant it to last. But that still doesn’t excuse the lack of maintenance it received: Leaking roofs, rotting wood, and failing ventilation systems were cited as reasons for the building’s removal.
ICS/ERF, however, did not die in vain. Its demolition has bolstered efforts to preserve other Gehry buildings. And its loss may make us all a little less complacent in thinking that an architectural award will dissuade the owner of an honored building from disposing of it. If anything, ICS/ERF seemed to express that fact, with its informal materials and apparently casual composition giving it a temporary feel. However much we might preserve the idea and image of a building by giving it an award and a permanent place in the architectural canon, ICS/ERF reminds us of the provisional nature of postmodern life and the challenge of creating timeless architecture in a transient age.