Robin Leach

Frank Gehry gets first look at his finished Ruvo Center downtown

Renowned architect Frank Gehry takes a guided tour of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which he designed.
Photo: Kristen Peterson

Frank Gehry's Guided Tour

Former President George W. Bush is given a tour of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health by Larry Ruvo on Feb. 10, 2010.

Former President George W. Bush is given a tour of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health by Larry Ruvo on Feb. 10, 2010.

Paul Anka and Larry Ruvo at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Paul Anka and Larry Ruvo at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

World-renowned architect Frank Gehry finally got to see his drawings and work come to life for the first time when he visited the now-completed downtown Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

“He was totally blown away and very emotionally moved,” Southern Wine and Spirits head honcho and Keep Memory Alive founder Larry Ruvo told me. “He kept saying how beautiful it was and that it simply took his breath away. It had finally become better than he’d ever envisioned so many, many months ago.”

The 81-year-old architect who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, among many other world masterpiece buildings, said he was completely satisfied with the end result.

Initially, he’d turned down many offers for his architectural work in Las Vegas. He even vowed to never put a building in a city where there was gaming. But, as he tells the story, Larry eventually won him over when he outlined plans for Las Vegas to house a $75 million facility that would eventually become home to a major medical center and find a cure for Alzheimer’s, the disease that took his father Lou Ruvo’s life. Frank also agreed to design for Las Vegas because the clinic researches Huntington’s, which is his major charitable cause.

Said Larry: “Frank wanted a unique building. I wanted a unique building that would stand out architecturally on the world map. We’re solving the brain’s problems and memory loss, and he solved our needs with a vision of how he saw the brain functioning as a building -- as a medical center. He said he liked the way it fit into the Las Vegas skyline and yet simultaneously stood out.

“He was totally satisfied with what was built from his drawings and what we have achieved so far and what we will achieve even more in the future. He wanted a unique building that would be uplifting and be a happy place to work. He wanted a building that would contribute to Las Vegas and at the same time be an economic engine in our town. He may have worried that some people would think it was over the top, but he rapidly concluded that they wouldn’t. It has become a very unique building in a city of remarkable structures.”

Larry personally gave Frank the tour of the building, similarly as he’d recently done with music legend Paul Anka, talk show host Jerry Springer and former President George W. Bush separately. I’d taken the tour earlier during the construction process with Siegfried & Roy, who became big supporters. Superstar and new Paris headliner Barry Manilow, who entertained at this year’s record-breaking Keep Memory Alive Gala, is up next.

The facility will be officially opened in May in a grand gala ceremony. Doctors and staff from the Cleveland Clinic have already moved into the offices, and the first patients are being seen and treated. A neighboring performing arts center is scheduled to open in 2012 in the 61-acre Symphony Park, formerly a railroad yard.

Larry summed up: “It was amazing to stand with him and see his reaction as he looked for the first time at what he’d first created in those architectural drawings three years ago. We both know the building itself will act as a fundraiser in its own right for the ongoing research. With Frank’s reputation and the Cleveland Clinic’s expertise and our drive to succeed, I am convinced the cure for Alzheimer’s will be discovered right here in Las Vegas.

“We have the incredible support of our mayor, our business leaders and our community. We can make Las Vegas a top-rated and extraordinary medical center receiving patients from all over the world. It’s happening. It’s real, and we won’t only keep people healthy but we will find the cures for these terrible brain diseases that are well on the way to affecting 1 in every 2 people at some point in the future. This gives everybody hope now.”

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