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Who is Frank Gehry?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 23, 2024
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Frank Owen Gehry, world famous architect, was born Ephraim Owen Goldberg on 28 February 1929. He was born in Toronto, Canada, but would relocate to California as a teenager. Gehry is best known for his modern approach to architecture, favoring sculptural design and shiny, reflective materials. His designs are often curvy, almost undulating, and although his materials are cold metal, Gehry manages to add life to his buildings.

Gehry was designing even as a young child, making models out of scraps. His name was changed to Gehry by his family when he moved to California at age 17. Educated at Los Angeles City College and the University of Southern California, he received a degree in architecture. After a stint in the army, Gehry was enrolled in a city planning program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, but he did not finish.

Establishing his first architectural practice in 1962, Gehry founded Gehry Partners, LLP in 2001. He has been prolific, designing projects throughout the world. Gehry is widely respected for his consistent ability to be on-time and on-budget. According to the architect, the "organization of the artist" is the primary key to success. He also compiles a very specific estimate outlining costs and relies on three-dimensional computer tools and closely supervises his subcontractors.

While some may call Gehry's design style tortured, others delight in the free-form, abstract, and imaginative style. His style is considered part of the Deconstructivist School, also called the Santa Monica school of architectural design. DeCon, as it is called, is a movement that seeks inspiration outside of mere function, which so many architects restrict their design to.

Gehry's designs continue to break out of the box by ignoring commonly held, mainstream beliefs as to how buildings should be designed and how they should function. Many detractors say that his buildings are not practical and are overwhelming to the senses and to their surroundings. Regardless of whether one likes or dislikes his buildings, they are sure to get a response from any viewer.

Bilbao, Spain's Guggenheim Museum, which is plated in titanium and was built in 1997, is perhaps one of his Gehry's most famous designs. He has designed homes, offices, schools, apartment buildings and museums, in addition to designing a line of furniture and watches. Among his impressive list of projects are the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California; Disney Village in Paris, France; the Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Toledo, Ohio; and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington.

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Discussion Comments

By Sequoia — On May 12, 2011

@goldenmist - I've seen it. It's a pretty entertaining film and it's inspiring to watch Frank work, but it doesn't really go very deep. My main problem with it is I don't think the questions are as good as they could have been. Everyone I saw it with liked it though, so you might feel differently about it.

By goldenmist — On May 09, 2011

@rjh - "Lazy" is probably a little harsh. He's an architect that works within a very narrow style and still manages to produce unique works like the Las Vegas building. I agree that it is probably not his best, but it's still unique.

On a different note, I've been meaning to see the movie Sketches of Frank Gehry for a while now, does anyone know if it's any good?

By rjh — On May 08, 2011

Personally I think Frank Gehry is getting lazy with his latest buildings. In my opinion nothing compares to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; that's the one you see used all the time in car commercials. Look for a picture of it and it'll no doubt look familiar to you.

Gehry's sketches are certainly interesting also and I think they kind of give an insight into the way he thinks about designing.

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