DESIGN: An American in Paris

Inspired by the city where it's set, Frank Gehry builds an elegant home for U.S. culture. But what will happen inside it?

With its towers, gaps and controlled riot of swooping curves, the new American Center in Paris unmistakably bears the mark of its designer, California architect Frank Gehry. Gehry's first famous building was his Santa Monica home -- a modest Dutch colonial, transformed so provocatively with corrugated metal, glass and chain link fence that it actually drew gunfire from an irate neighbor. Ever since, Gehry has specialized in the tumbling, disjointed style known as deconstructivism. Though more conservative than his usual projects, the Paris building is still a characteristic and handsome achievement. Within this stylish envelope, the architect has accommodated a theater,...

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