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Gehry slams 'rust' stories but takes Basques to task. . .

Frank Gehry has rubbished claims that his famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is rusting, but attacked the Basques for not heeding his advice about cleaning the building as it went up.

The rust claims were made by Andrea Gerlin, a British journalist with the Philadelphia Enquirer, on 25 August and centred on the 33,000 titanium panels which cover the 26,500m 2landmark building, which was completed to a budget of US$100 million three years ago.

'They're scurrilous, ' said Gehry of the claims. 'She called it a rusting hulk, but titanium doesn't rust, so that's a bit of a problem.'

Gehry added that the article, headlined, 'Just a glimmer of its shimmering self - why is famed museum losing its shine?', argued that moisture had been detected behind the titanium.

'But that's where it's supposed to be,' he said, referrig to its protective membrane of rubberised skin.

In fact, Gerlin's piece said 'the corrosion-proof titanium exterior . . . has started to resemble the rusting hull of an abandoned barge', and that the titanium supplier said panels were contaminated during construction.

Gehry instead attacked the Basques for refusing to clean the building while it was under construction when polyurethane roofing leaked over the sides 'in very prominent places'. 'They were Basque and they didn't do it - they're stubborn, ' he said 'They're very black and white people.'

Consequently, said Gehry, the pollution-affected stains had wedded themselves to the titanium and altered the sheen to a blueish tint.'I advised them to clean the titanium, and now the cure is worse than the problem. But I was there six months ago and it looked OK to me.This lady was just trying to start World War Three.'

The titanium panels, which are just 0.3mm thick, were chosen for their look and 'incredible strength'.

Gehry admitted that the panels also tend to 'pillow', but said that he feels that the effect only serves to 'humanise' the building.

Gehry is using stainless steel rather than titanium on his practice's Cancer Care Centre in Dundee (see page six) for reasons of cost.

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