Adding some curves to a white-pillar town

Architect Frank Gehry, recently chosen to design a new wing of the Corcoran Gallery of Art near the White House, says his plan "looks like a bunch of colored pieces of paper."

Mr. Gehry's radical design of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, has roused criticism for its big plunging, curved forms.

Charles Atherton, secretary of the capital's Fine Arts Commission, predicted the adventurous design for the Corcoran, contrasting with the austere white columns of many Washington buildings, also will invite much debate.

Asked to describe the look of his model at a news conference last week, Gehry said:

"To me it looks like a bunch of colored pieces of paper. At this point, you know, there's no substance to it, except it's a sketch. So you just look at it. You just blink and get a sense. I'm trying to achieve a certain energy. I'm trying to be a good neighbor."

He said the Corcoran building would not look like the Bilbao Museum.

"I want it to be its own thing," he said. "It's going to have its own persona, and the situation here will make it have that."

The Bilbao museum occupies a much larger space on the bank of the Nervion River.

The Washington, D.C., building will have a frontage of about 200 feet on New York Avenue, between the museum's main gallery and an office building. Its 80-foot width will mask the Corcoran art school's factory-like yellow brick and itself will be invisible from the original gallery's faade.

Gehry said he did not know yet what colors and materials he will use. A Corcoran gallery press officer said about half of the $40 million cost has been collected so far.

The building is expected to open in 2003.

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