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Frank Gehry

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Title: Frank Gehry  
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Subject: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, BP Pedestrian Bridge, EMP Museum, University of Southern California, Gehry Residence
Collection: 1929 Births, Architects from California, Architects from Los Angeles, California, Art in the Greater Los Angeles Area, Canadian Architects, Canadian Emigrants to the United States, Canadian Jews, Canadian People of Polish-Jewish Descent, Columbia University Faculty, Companions of the Order of Canada, Deconstructivism, Harvard Graduate School of Design Alumni, Harvard University Alumni, Jewish Architects, Living People, Members of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, National Design Award Winners, People from Toronto, Postmodern Architects, Pritzker Architecture Prize Winners, Recipients of the Praemium Imperiale, Recipients of the Royal Gold Medal, Ted Speakers, United States Army Soldiers, United States National Medal of Arts Recipients, University of Southern California Alumni, Usc School of Architecture Alumni, Wolf Prize in Arts Laureates, Yale School of Architecture Faculty
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Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry in 2007
Born Frank Owen Goldberg
(1929-02-28) February 28, 1929
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian, American
Alma mater University of Southern California
Awards AIA Gold Medal
National Medal of Arts
Order of Canada
Pritzker Prize
Praemium Imperiale
Practice Gehry Partners, LLP
Buildings Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Gehry Residence, Louis Vuitton Foundation, 8 Spruce Street, Weisman Art Museum, Dancing House, Art Gallery of Ontario, EMP Museum, Cinémathèque française, Biomuseo, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art

Frank Owen Gehry, CC (born Frank Owen Goldberg; February 28, 1929)[1] is a Canadian-American Pritzker Prize-winning architect based in Los Angeles.

A number of his buildings, including his private residence, have become world-renowned tourist attractions. His works are cited as being among the most important works of contemporary architecture in the 2010 World Architecture Survey, which led Vanity Fair to label him as "the most important architect of our age".[2]

Gehry's best-known works include the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, France; MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Vontz Center for Molecular Studies on the University of Cincinnati campus; Experience Music Project in Seattle; New World Center in Miami Beach; Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis; Dancing House in Prague; the Vitra Design Museum and the museum MARTa Herford in Germany; the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; the Cinémathèque française in Paris; and 8 Spruce Street in New York City. But it was his private residence in Santa Monica, California, that jump-started his career, lifting it from the status of "paper architecture"—a phenomenon that many famous architects have experienced in their formative decades through experimentation almost exclusively on paper before receiving their first major commission in later years. Gehry is also the designer of the future National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.[3]


  • Early life 1
    • Education 1.1
  • Career 2
  • Architectural style 3
    • Bilbao Effect 3.1
    • Criticism 3.2
  • Other aspects of career 4
    • Academia 4.1
    • Cultural image 4.2
    • Exhibition and set design 4.3
    • Furniture, clothing, jewelry and sculpture design 4.4
    • Software development 4.5
    • Exhibitions of Gehry's work 4.6
  • Works 5
  • Awards and honors 6
  • Honorary doctorates 7
  • Personal life 8
  • See also 9
  • Notes 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13

Early life

Gehry was born Frank Owen Goldberg[1] on February 28, 1929, in Toronto, Ontario, to parents, Irwin and Thelma (née Thelma Caplan) Goldberg.[4] His parents were Polish Jews.[5] A creative child, he was encouraged by his grandmother, Mrs. Caplan, with whom he would build little cities out of scraps of wood.[6] With these scraps from her husband's hardware store, she entertained him for hours, building imaginary houses and futuristic cities on the living room floor.[4] His use of corrugated steel, chain link fencing, unpainted plywood and other utilitarian or "everyday" materials was partly inspired by spending Saturday mornings at his grandfather's hardware store. He would spend time drawing with his father and his mother introduced him to the world of art. "So the creative genes were there", Gehry says. "But my mother thought I was a dreamer, I wasn't gonna amount to anything. It was my father who thought I was just reticent to do things. He would push me."[7]

He was given the Hebrew name "Ephraim" by his grandfather but only used it at his bar mitzvah.[1]


In 1947, Gehry moved to California, got a job driving a delivery truck, and studied at Los Angeles City College, eventually to graduate from the University of Southern California's School of Architecture. During that time, he became a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi.[8]

According to Gehry, "I was a truck driver in L.A., going to City College, and I tried radio announcing, which I wasn't very good at. I tried chemical engineering, which I wasn't very good at and didn't like, and then I remembered. You know, somehow I just started racking my brain about, "What do I like?" Where was I? What made me excited? And I remembered art, that I loved going to museums and I loved looking at paintings, loved listening to music. Those things came from my mother, who took me to concerts and museums. I remembered Grandma and the blocks, and just on a hunch, I tried some architecture classes."[9] Gehry graduated at the top of his class with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from USC in 1954.

After graduation from college, he spent time away from the field of architecture in numerous other jobs, including service in the United States Army. In the fall of 1956, he moved his family to Cambridge, where he studied city planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He left before completing the program, disheartened and underwhelmed. Gehry's left-wing ideas about socially responsible architecture were under-realized, and the final straw occurred when he sat in on a discussion of one professor's "secret project in progress"—a palace that he was designing for right-wing Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista (1901–1973).[4]


Gehry Residence in Santa Monica, California

Gehry established his practice in Los Angeles in 1962, which eventually became the Gehry partnership in 2001.[10] Gehry's earliest commissions were all in Southern California, where he designed a number of relatively small-scale yet innovative commercial structures such as Santa Monica Place (1980) and residential buildings such as the eccentric Norton House (1984) in Venice, California.[11]

Among these works, however, Gehry's most notable design may be the renovation of his own Santa Monica residence.[12] Originally built in 1920 and purchased by Gehry in 1977, the Gehry Residence features a metallic exterior wrapped around the original building that leaves many of the original details visible.[13] Gehry still resides there today.

Other completed buildings designed by Gehry during the 1980s include the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (1981) in San Pedro and the Air and Space exhibit building (1984) at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.

In 1989, Gehry was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The jury cited Gehry as "Always open to experimentation, he has as well a sureness and maturity that resists, in the same way that Picasso did, being bound either by critical acceptance or his successes. His buildings are juxtaposed collages of spaces and materials that make users appreciative of both the theatre and the back-stage, simultaneously revealed."[14]

Chiat/Day Building in Venice, California

Though Gehry continued to design other notable buildings in California such as the Chiat/Day Building (1991) in Venice, which is well known for its massive sculpture of binoculars, he also began to receive larger national and international commissions. These include Gehry's first major museum commission, the Frederick Weisman Museum of Art[15] (1993) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Cinémathèque Française[16] (1994) in Paris, France, and the Dancing House[17] (1996) in Prague, Czech Republic.

In 1997, Gehry vaulted to a new level of international acclaim[2] when the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened in Bilbao, Spain. Hailed by New Yorker Magazine as a "masterpiece of the twentieth century" and legendary architect Philip Johnson as "the greatest building of our time",[18] the museum became famous for its striking yet aesthetically pleasing design and the economic effect that it had on the city.

New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida

Since then, Gehry has regularly won major commissions and has further established himself as one of the world's most notable architects. His best received works include several concert halls for classical music, such as the boisterous and curvaceous Walt Disney Concert Hall (2003) in Downtown Los Angeles,[19] which has been the centerpiece of the neighborhood's revitalization and has been labeled by the LA Times as "the most effective answer to doubters, naysayers, and grumbling critics an American architect has ever produced",[20] the open-air Jay Pritzker Pavilion (2004) adjacent to Millennium Park in Chicago,[21] and the understated New World Center (2011) in Miami Beach, which the LA Times called "a piece of architecture that dares you to underestimate it or write it off at first glance."[22]

Other notable works include academic buildings such as the Stata Center (2004)[23] at MIT and the Peter B. Lewis Library (2008) at Princeton University,[24] museums such as the EMP Museum (2000) in Seattle, Washington,[25] commercial buildings such as the IAC Building (2007) in New York City,[26] and residential buildings such as Gehry's first skyscraper New York by Gehry at Eight Spruce Street (2011)[27] in New York City.

Several major works by Gehry currently being constructed around the world include the the Dr Chau Chak Wing in the University of Technology, Sydney, scheduled for completion in 2014.[28] The Chau Chak Wing, with its 320,000 bricks in "sweeping lines" is described as "10 out of 10" on a scale of difficulty.[29] The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates is scheduled for completion in 2017.[30] Other significant projects such as the Mirvish Towers in Toronto,[31] the new global headquarters for Facebook in Menlo Park, California,[32] and a multi-decade renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are currently in the design stage. In October 2013, Gehry was appointed joint architect with Foster + Partners to design the "High Street" phase of the development of Battersea Power Station in London, England, which will represent Gehry's first project in London.[33]

However, in recent years, some of Gehry's more prominent designs have failed to go forward. In addition to unrealized designs such as a major Corcoran Art Gallery expansion in Washington, D.C., and a new Guggenheim museum near the South Street Seaport in New York City, Gehry was notoriously dropped by developer Bruce Ratner from the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn, New York due to high costs in 2009 and was also dropped as the designer of the World Trade Center performing arts center in 2014.[34] That said, some stalled projects have recently shown progress: after many years and a dismissal, Gehry was recently reinstated as architect for the Grand Avenue Project in Los Angeles and, though Gehry's controversial[35][36] [37] design of the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., has been subject to numerous delays during the approval process with the United States Congress, the project was finally approved in 2014 with a modified design.

In 2014, two significant, long-awaited museums designed by Gehry opened: the Biomuseo,[38] a biodiversity museum in Panama City, Panama, and the Louis Vuitton Foundation,[39][40][41] a modern art museum in the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris, France, which opened to some rave reviews.[42]

Architectural style

Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
Vontz Center for Molecular Studies, University of Cincinnati
The tower at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan, completed in February 2011, has a stainless steel and glass exterior and is 76 stories high.

Much of Gehry's work falls within the style of Deconstructivism, which is often referred to as post-structuralist in nature for its ability to go beyond current modalities of structural definition. This can be seen in Gehry's house in Santa Monica. In architecture, its application tends to depart from modernism in its inherent criticism of culturally inherited givens such as societal goals and functional necessity. Because of this, unlike early modernist structures, Deconstructivist structures are not required to reflect specific social or universal ideas, such as speed or universality of form, and they do not reflect a belief that form follows function. Gehry's own Santa Monica residence is a commonly cited example of deconstructivist architecture, as it was so drastically divorced from its original context, and in such a manner as to subvert its original spatial intention.

Gehry is sometimes associated with what is known as the "Los Angeles School" or the "Santa Monica School" of architecture. The appropriateness of this designation and the existence of such a school, however, remains controversial due to the lack of a unifying philosophy or theory. This designation stems from the Los Angeles area's producing a group of the most influential postmodern architects, including such notable Gehry contemporaries as Eric Owen Moss and Pritzker Prize-winner Thom Mayne of Morphosis, as well as the famous schools of architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (co‑founded by Mayne), UCLA, and USC where Gehry is a member of the Board of Directors.

Gehry’s style at times seems unfinished or even crude, but his work is consistent with the California "funk" art movement in the 1960s and early 1970s, which featured the use of inexpensive found objects and non-traditional media such as clay to make serious art. Gehry has been called "the apostle of chain-link fencing and corrugated metal siding".[43] However, a retrospective exhibit at New York's Whitney Museum in 1988 revealed that he is also a sophisticated classical artist, who knows European art history and contemporary sculpture and painting.

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