Frank Gehry claimed last week that advances in computer technology have given architects the chance to reclaim from contractors the status of 'master builder'.
After a career designing with models, Gehry admitted that he finds designing on screen 'painful', but said that the increasing accuracy delivered by computers could free the profession from being 'the little woman' of the construction process. He said that for years architects have been 'infantilised' by contractors.
'The miracle of the computer turns that around, ' he said. 'There is such a degree of accuracy that contractors are not at a great risk if they just follow the instructions.We are working with lawyers and insurers in America to reach a position where the architect becomes the responsible party in the equation.
There is a great opportunity for our profession to become the master builder again.'
But Gehry warned against overreliance on information technology: 'The young kids are designing on computers and it's scary because they don't have a lot of construction experience.'
Gehry,71, was speaking at the award of his Royal Gold Medal at Inigo Jones' Whitehall Palace in London. He delivered a slide show of his latest projects and revealed a vision of the architect returned to the centre of the construction process with the computer as the primary tool.
Elsewhere in his speech he said that young architects should learn to work closely with clients, and pointed to 'the miracle in Bilbao' as an example.
'It happened because there was a very strong Basque client and a strong Guggenheim client, ' he said.'We spent a lot of time together and that's crucial. By the time Bilbao was built the client thought he'd designed it.'
He also revealed how he had withdrawn a scheme which was favourite to win the competition to design a new tower for the New York Times in New York, because 'the client wasn't my kind of client'. Renzo Piano went on to win, against competition from Foster and Partners and Cesar Pelli and Associates.
After the presentation, RIBA president Marco Goldschmied praised Gehry's technical ability.'The search for fusion of the technical, production and artistic aspects of his work has, arguably, come to fruition in his most recent work, but we can only wait for the next chapter to unfold.'
Stephenson Bell partner Roger Stephenson also welcomed the jury's choice and defended Gehry against the charges from some at the event that his work appeared formulaic. He said that Gehry's architecture responds to its sites well and that his designs offer good orientation for visitors.