At Gehry Partners model making is a kinetic process. “When Frank and I work together,” Craig Webb explains, “he’ll do a sketch, I’ll do a model, he’ll do a sketch, I’ll do a model.” For IAC the process began with preliminary models based on the zoning envelope (img. 1) and spun out from there. Simple shapes—rectangles, parallelograms—came first, resulting in a column-and-beam form clad with glass, which could also be rendered in brick or stone (img. 2). Then they began playing with materials, creating a model with a solid mass of wood in the middle, bookended by glass (img. 3). Diller quickly expressed a preference for an all-glass building.
With the material set, the architects moved into an exploration of Frank Gehry’s signature curves, producing an expressive model that everyone loved (img. 4); Webb calls it “the gorgeous, completely unaffordable version.” After discarding that, they landed on the mix of style and practicality that would eventually be built. “You can see the sail shapes starting here,” he says, pointing at a model (img. 5). There are ten of these—iterations in glass, stainless steel, or titanium with punched openings (img. 6). The shape made sense: several of Gehry’s previous projects have incorporated sail shapes, and Diller was in the midst of building a gigantic boat.
Even when the building was nearing its final form (img. 7), there were still some significant tweaks: the backside had to be straightened due to budget, and the rectilinear form of the east side was altered to mimic other structures on the block (img. 8). But by the end the changes were so slight that, Webb says, “Frank was looking at the final models and couldn’t even tell.”