tv Tavis Smiley PBS February 24, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PST
good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. a conversation one of the world's most renowned architects, frank garrett. just days before celebrating his 88th birthday, he joins us to talk about his online master class and what he's doing to help children have access to art and creativity in school. we're glad you joined us. frank gary in just a moment.
>> frank gary has been called the most important architect of our age. it's thoord disagree with that assessment. throughout his career, he has designed awe inspiring structures that have become must visit destinations. this spring he'll teach his first ever online course through master class.com. as always, i'm honored to have frank gary back on this program. how are you, my friend? >> great. >> good to see you again. >> wh i saw this, i was shocked. i was shock thawed were gone, i
guess, reveal some trade secrets. not just because you say it, i could do it. but why do a master class? you are almost 88 1/2. >> i have no clue. the nice people came and asked me to do it the it sounded like something interesting. >> what makes it interesting for you? >> appealing for you? >> the candor of it. they let it all hang out. they ask go g. questionod quest. and i love teaching. i've always done. that. >> what is it about the teaching that you enjoy? >> opening other people's minds. you can see the immediate results. it's great that you're having an impact. >> yeah. >> i mean, obviously the master class, the online class unveil all of this. but what are -- just give me two or three things that are
important for you to get across to students as you were teaching? what is it about your profession, about the way do you what do you that you hope to communicate? give me two or three things that you're delving into this course? >> well, my profession is supposed to be a creative profession. and that means it's an arc of some kind. the history of architecture was a painter but he became an architect. many great painters became architects. so the tradition is it is an art. as an art sh it's personal. if it's personal, how do you find yourself? and that -- that's tough. the system doesn't generate that. so i try to get kids to
understand that they have something that's themselves. and i do it a lot of time with having them write their signatures. you get ten kids to write their signatures, you put them in and they all look different. i said that's you, that's you, that's you. now do that from now on. don't look back. >> yeah. >> and find yourself. and when you do, you're the only other expert it in. they may not like it but you're the expert. and that's occur expertise. and that's your art. >> some of the questions you raise, frank, almost make this sound like it could be a philosophy course. >> well, it's your own personal -- it's created with your own personal feelings about the world and life and what's going on around you. but i think -- i always believed that architecture was a profession to make things better
for people. not just do better but to just, you know, open some doors. >> yeah. there are two issues you raise that i want to pick up. two minutes ago you said that my profession, architecture, is supposed to be a creative profession. >> you picked up on that. >> yes. >> do you your job better -- do you your job well. i do mine reasonably well. you say something like that, don't think dinlt hear that. >> all right. so when your profession is supposed to be a creative profession, what did you sneen. >> okay. it's become different than that. it's the art of architecture has not been celebrated like maybe it should be. when you see the buildings built in all the it is cities aren't nothing in them speaks of art, of the art of architecture.
so they're economic constructs. and god bless them, the developers, you know, that's their model. that's their business. but architecture which is one click stop more, it's not that big a deal, does what we were able to do which is very inexpensive building, earned a few hundred billion euros since it opened. so it is powerful when it's done that right and history of architecture shows the power of it. >> i heard you talk about this before. certainly in our personal and private conversations you raised this issue. i wonder if i can get you to share the conversation now.
this -- you intermated a moment ago at least this relationship as you see it this dialect you see between architecture and humanity, what is that relationship for you? >> in my world, i'm optimistic. it's an -- it's a gesture of optimism. it's something that engages people. i don't sit down and say i'm going to do. this i mean, if i could do that, it would be cool. i'm very insecure and i operate at a healthy ensecurity and i'm not sure. i'm a little sleppy. and it's not -- it's not a big ego trip in that sense. it's just -- it's the only thing i know how to do. and when somebody has a problem, a building to make and i try to make it the best i can. >> yeah. >> and make it engaging so
people feel good. like the best thing i was able to accomplish is people go there and tell me all the time how good it feels to be there. how much they feel the orchestra and the orchestra, likewise, tells me how much they feel. so if i could do that, that's what i want to do. for the rest of my life. >> you have done. that you've done it a few times over. when you said a moment ago you're insecure, i think every one of white house has been blessed and i say blessed, to succeed at whatever level, at some level, if we're honest, i think we'll admit that every one of us has certain insecurities. >> i think that's fair. i think that's a good thing. >> i think it's a good thing, too. i was about to ask you. tell me how your insecurities have aided and abetted the success of frank gary. >> it makes me question everything i do probably more
carefully. what is the benefit of doing this? it is really deliver wlag i feel i want to deliver? the feelings and the uplifting, making a place that people like to be in, makes them feel good. makes them want to come back. it has a presence that the community is proud of. it's a sense of pride and all those things. that doesn't come in the first round. you have to keep going at it. all of a sudden, some miracle happens. you feel well, that's it. you lit it go. you hide in a corner. >> i want to talk about the kids you've been helping and what you want to do with the proceeds you will make off this to help the kids from california. before i ask that you, let me ask you a question that will make you uncomfortable. but let me ask you anyway.
it seems to me that there are a number of professions that come to mind immediately. where to my mind at least, it's impossible for a person in this said arena to not think about his or her legacy alongside the work they do. for example if, i'm the president of the united states, i have to believe that with everything you do, you know that everything do you is a part of history. you have to be concerned not just in the last year or so, but throughout your term. you ought to be, it seems to me, at least considering how is this going to play historically even though i want to do the right thing in this moment? okay, so as an architect, i put you in that field. what you do will last forever and ever. think do tear stuff down. but the stuff you build -- >> i had five buildings torn down. >> let me ask that question first. how does that field when you build something, put your heart and blod and body and spirit and they tear it down? how do you process that?
>> well, it depends on what they tear down. the buildings they've torn down is u.c. irvine, the engineering school, the school had to expand. they didn't call me. they just tore it down, built a new school. i just took that as a matter of course. i don't even think i have good pictures of it. >> you would have felt better in f. they called you? you would design a new one for us? >> maybe. >> i only ask that question. you went there. when you build something, again, you put all yourself into it. and they tear it down. every once in a while i have this happening in hollywood. we're trying to build a building tlaen say bank building. and people are trying -- there is a new outcry to save it. it's a decent building. i don't know that it's a milestone in architecture. and i just wonlderdered why wer
they tout save my other buildings? >> again, i can only imagine when you put yourself into something and they tear it down. the flip side, i'm glad we detoured, where was going initially is how do you process what you think or hope your legacy will be as you're designing this stuff that you create? >> i don't know. >> or do you not think about it? >> i don't think about it so much. i mean, i've collected -- i saved all the models since my bar mitzvah. i have a storage. i must be thinking about it unconsciously. to say i'm not thinking about it would be probably not true. but i don't go out of my way about it to promote it. there have been shows about it.
i have to look forward. i can't -- there's only so much time. and you just focus on full speed ahead. >> yeah. >> let me ask you an uncomfortable and inpolitic question. i'm going to lean on our friend ship. you're about to turn 88. happy early birthday. >> thank you. >> if your demise came sooner than later, you are happy with the body of work? you are content with the bod yif work you created -- body of work you created? >> yeah, i think. i don't think about that that much. i don't think. i mean, i do think about '88 and how long after '88 could you hang around? but norman leer is still hanging out. he's my model. >> i just talked to sidney poitier the other day. he turned 90.
belafonte is about to turn 906789. >> and they're still going. >> let me talk about the kids. so, again, it did not surprise me knowing you as i do that whatever proceeds you may make from this online master class, you're helping the kids in california, tell what you're doing with these kids. >> so a long time ago, 40, 50 years ago, ways curious what happens in elementary school. what happens to kids in the ghetto schools. so i volunteer. twoinlt a few of them. i would take cardboard boxes and say i'm going to build a city. when i went to the classroom, the kids couldn't care less whether i was there or number and they were sort of, i don't know what they were thinking. i got paints and stuff and i had them -- i got one or two of them painting a box. that is the library.
and pretty soon they were all doing it. and we put it on the table. we made a city. i told them how to use the surveying equipment. therefore, the pro be tractor. they got it all on the table. and i said now it's beautiful. now let's calculate the area of it. so with what does that sneen so i was teaching math. and then when they got through with that, i said who runs this place? who runs the city? and they start talking about the mayor and this and that and quo get into civics. and then you could expand. so i realize how important the arts were in engaging kids and kids minds. since then, i've been part of kind of part of the group and they have close to a million kids in a country that is having plenty of difficulties. but the little kids from 4 years old are in a music program.
i witnessed it. and it's a turnon and they get excited. and kids from are mentally impaired and they play in the orchestra. they're part of it and blind kids and all kinds of kids. rich, poor, everything. so it's one of most arts education programs. and i was having dinner with alicia shriver who invented philanthropy. i mean heshgs whole family. and i told her about elsistema. i said i'd like to do something now with the school. she hooked me up with michelle obama's turn around school program. and i hired her to run it. we have a call section. and we now have 16 schools. and we go in. we get $100,000 a year per
school. it's a three-year commit ment. and we facilitate an arts program and to get the kid turned on to -- it engages them. and it keeps them in the school. and they graduate. and they keep going. which is great. because the dropout numbers are horrific. and the prisons are preparing for the dropout numbers. so we bring artists to the school. i brought david hockney to one. smokey robinson is going to come. he's my favorite of all time. >> let me jump in. what did hockney, what did he talk to the kids about? >> so we went to the park. a school where 60% of the kids are homeless. and david came in. he's been painting on the computer. >> on his i snad. >> yeah. we went over. we had a table full of flower vases and flowers.
went over to the flower vase. he put it here and started to do it in front of the kids. we gave them each a tablet. they each went and picked the thing. and they each made -- they duly indicated what he was doing on their own. and with their own voice. >> right. >> and some of them couldn't -- you couldn't get them involved. at the end, 30, 40 kids stood up and put the drawings next to david hockney, proudly getting their picture taken. >> i'm sure. >> we're having them enlarged, those pictures. we're putting nem a new building we're doing for facebook. as the art in the building. and then we're going to bring the kids to see their art. >> wow. >> and david hockney when was through said this is the greatest thing. can i come back? >> so the kids are going have portraits on the wall in the facebook building and it started from hockney training them in a
class how to paint on a tablet. >> right. >> and chad smith from the chili peppers, the drummer. he does one of the schools. he brings vie linz aviolins and teaches them drumming and how it's like mouth. >> i feel it. i don't just hear it. i feel it coming out of you. at this point in your life given all the accolades you received, tell me about the joy that you get out of spending time with these kids and bringing these other artists into see these kids? >> it's like going to heaven. >> yeah. >> it is. and this kid wouldn't talk. i brought limb dohim down to my. he wouldn't talk. i went over to him and i said you're not learning anything, right? i said, nope. you should have stayed home, right?
he said, yep. i said come here. i took him over to one of my tables where my guys were working on a model for some building. and i said, i got to go take a phone call, i'll be right back. he sat. there i gave about it 20 minutes. came back. he was cutting paper with the guys. then he followed me the rest of the time. the teacher asked him what he was doinghe? said i'm working for frank. now that kid went on to high school. i'm dying to connect with him again. >> yeah. >> and there are ten stories like. that. >> see, part of what i am overjoyed when i hear you share these stories about what you are doing. but you and david hockney and others are private citizens who are giving of yourself and your time and of your treasure, quite frankly, to make this happen. and you're doing that in part because as a society we have deemed arts education less important now than it used to be. >> why? >> i'm about to ask you that
question. what do you make of that? >> i don't know. it's embarrassing. it's really embarrassing. the schools have lost it. reading, writing and math. >> and testing. a lot of testing. >> well, it's like the business mentality prevails. it's fwoback to. that and it's in denial of feeling. it erases feeling from the numbers. >> that's too bad. >> we have to fight that. >> speaking of washington, i read some months ago you got past that roosevelt drama. >> eisenhower. >> i'm glad you corrected me. i'm sorey. thank you. iment to s meant to say higheis. so that is done and over? >> yeah. we had some great people, people i never met before. a guy was a big shot republican party. he was the co-chair of the
presidential debate commission. >> and he helped us. and then jim baker helped us. and finally it all turned around. looks like we're going. it was weird. >> it's about time. >> it was a weird fight. >> i raise that only because i was glad to read the eisenhower monument is on track to be done. i'm glad they get the right person to do it. but it also underscores to me it your business specially, people don't really appreciate how many changes, how many rewrites, that is a hollywood script. >> same thing. >> but it takes a while to get prot jekts rig the projects right. where do you find the patience? >> well, on the cost control and all that, we figured out a way to do that. our buildings come in right on budget or close. which snld known. i mean when somebody looks at my
building, they assume it's billions of dollars. >> it's more expensive. >> disney hall were $207 million. that is the budgets. there is a lot of costs. they add to the problems that they went through and end up costing money. had nothing to do with me. but i think it's important to be real, maintain a reality when build a building. people's clients have a reality, understand that. so i think we can work with those tough developers and build -- if they can build x for $100 million and it be profitable, we can build our building for the same price and be more beautiful and more engaging. and i've proven that a lot of times. but somehow we can't make that happen. >> yeah. >> i hope i'm not violating a personal confidence. but i'm only raising this because the academy awards happens in a few days.
no. no. no, you're not -- you're not and neither am i. but you whispered in my ear when you walked on set yushgs favori favori -- fur favorite documentary of the year. do you want to tell me why you love "i am not your kneeinegro" much? >> i lived through a lot of those days. i was around when baldwin was around. it was so powerful to the point that little two minute segment where dick cabbot had a yale professor come on and talk to baldwin about, look, it doesn't matter you're black. a black writer. i'm a white writer. we're friends. and he just missed the point. and baldwin took him out so straight and so clearly. >> yeah. >> about the reality of being
black. and that was powerful. i think that should be shown to everybody. we should be required to see that. >> your work is powerful. always nice to you have on. save travels. i'll see you again soon. >> that's our show tonight with frank gary. thanks for watching. and as always, keep the faith. >> join me next time for a conversation with the parents of trayvon martin about the birth of a movement and their son. we'll see you then.
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