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Weisman celebrates reopening with its designer in attendance

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Frank Gehry
Architect Frank Gehry returned to the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, for the reopening of the building he designed in the early 1990s.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

Architect Frank Gehry returned to the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis Saturday night for the reopening of the building he designed in the early 1990s. 

The refurbishment of the Weisman doubles the size of the museum's galleries, but essentially leaves its iconic metal-clad exterior untouched. 

Some observers claim the building's famed asymmetrical facade was inspired by reflection on the waters of the Mississippi River below it. But Gehry said his inspiration came from elsewhere. 

"The first inspiration came from the Tibetan monasteries that are on hills, where the big frontal elevation is off the side of a cliff," he said. "That was really the building type that came to mind when I looked at that facade on the river."

Gehry said he originally had intended for a duller finish on the exterior of the building, but then he visited the site with his son on his way to a hockey camp.

Frank Gehry's design
Architect Frank Gehry designed the new additions at the Weisman Art Museum to blend with his original building on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

"There were samples of the shiny metal and the duller metal, and he said, 'Which one are you going to use?'" Gehry recalled. "And I said, 'I'd like to use the shiny one but it might be too much in their face.' And he said 'Poppa, you gotta do it!'"  

The Weisman was the first museum Gehry designed in its entirety, and was the testing ground for ideas he used later in the better known Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

 The reopening celebration continued with an open house Sunday afternoon.