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Saturday, 24 June, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Rock museum divides critics
The controversial building before it was unveiled to the world
The controversial building before it was unveiled to the world
A rock 'n' roll museum whose bold design suggests a colourful smashed guitar is dividing public opinion over its controversial appearance.

The interactive Experience Music Project in Seattle was originally conceived by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen as a shrine to his idol Jimi Hendrix, the Seattle-born guitar wizard who died in 1970.
An orgy of giant multi-coloured molluscs

Anonymous critic

Depending on the beholder, the multi-coloured exterior design is drawing cheers of delight, or screams of outrage.

One reporter described it as "an orgy of giant, multi-coloured molluscs." Another said it looked like "Technicolour mushrooms on a soggy lawn."

The building was designed by architect Frank Gehry, who said Mr Allen had asked for something "swoopy."
drum pattern
The museum features many interactive elements

"It's a very descriptive term," said Mr Gehry, also the architect of the riotously curvacious Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

"I loved it. The way he said it, you couldn't not like it. He was so endearing, grasping for a way to describe what he wanted."

The finished product is a crumpled-looking red, blue, purple, silver and copper-coloured building, with cables intended to represent snapped guitar strings.

Part theme park, part tribute to the rock and pop music Mr Allen grew up with and Seattle has nurtured, it has more than 80,000 artefacts.
Jimi Hendrix
Some of Jimi Hendrix' guitars are on show

These include Elvis Presley's black leather jacket, Janis Joplin's floral bell-bottom trousers and the Fender Stratocaster Hendrix played at Woodstock.

There is also a Sound Lab where visitors can have a guitar lesson, and experience via virtual reality the sensation of performing on stage and hearing the roar of the crowd.

Mr Allen, 47, left Microsoft in 1982 after being diagnosed with cancer, which he later beat.

Many interests

Since then, he has bought a basketball team, the Portland Trail Blazers, and a football team, the Seattle Seahawks, to whom he is contributing more than $100m to help build a stadium.

He also plays guitar in a rock band, Grown Men, who recently released their first CD.

Mr Allen - listed by Forbes magazine as the fourth richest man in the world, with $28bn - created the rock museum to share his musical experience.
Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg is one of the many celebrities attending the opening

"If you give the young people the keys to the kingdom of rock and roll, just a feeling that they can make their own music, then they'll find their own path," he told Newsweek in a recent interview.

Organisers are confident the museum will be a roaring success, and predict between 800,000 and 1m visitors during the first year.

Star line-up

To celebrate the opening, a concert offering everything from soul to heavy metal and rap will take place.

The line-up includes such artists as Alanis Morissette, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Metallica, Eminem, Patti Smith and the Eurythmics.

They have shrugged off the relatively dismal first five years of Cleveland's rival Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which has suffered low attendances and been forced to make cutbacks.

The National Centre for Popular Music in the United Kingdom has also struggled to break even since its launch, requiring a rescue package late last year after only 100,000 of the expected 400,000 visitors turned up.


Purple memories
Remembering Hendrix 30 years on
See also:

02 Nov 99 | Entertainment
18 Oct 99 | Entertainment
18 Apr 00 | Entertainment
02 Jan 00 | Entertainment
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