Creator of iconic buildings which became tourist attractions like the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, the Dancing House, Prague and the Guggenheim Museum, Spain, Frank Gehry, the Canadian-American architect was born in 1929.
Gehry, who studied at the University of South California and Harvard and known for original, sculptural and astonishing work, is among the most acclaimed architects of the 20th century, and is known for his use of bold, postmodern shapes and unusual fabrications.
After leaving Harvard, Frank Gehry launched a cardboard furniture line Easy Edges. But since his primary interest was buildings not furniture, he decided to remodel his family home in Santa Monica, California; the remodeling involved surrounding the existing bungalow with corrugated steel and chain-link fence, effectively splitting the house open with an angled skylight. The Santa Monica experiment caught the attention of the architectural community due to Gehry's avant-garde design. And from then on Gehry’s architectural journey took off in right earnest.
At one level, Gehry was grouped with the deconstructivist movement due to his flair to undermine the viewer’s expectations of traditional materials and forms; at another level, he was also linked to postmodernism because of his inclination towards architectural tradition. His innate ability was to treat a new assignment as ‘a sculptural object, a spatial container, a space with light and air,’ which made him famous worldwide. In fact, by the late 1990s, Gehry’s design-identity had become structures that resembled undulating free-form sculpture—the ultimate personification of this style being the Guggenheim Museum, Spain.
Gehry's other acclaimed works include the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris; MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center, Massachusetts; Vontz Center for Molecular Studies, University of Cincinnati; Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle; New World Center, Miami; Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis; Dancing House, Prague; Vitra Design Museum and the MARTa Herford museum, Germany; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Cinémathèque Française, Paris and 8 Spruce Street, New York City.
The architectural philosophy of Gehry envisaged his choice of unusual materials such as corrugated metal; some of his designs project an unfinished or even crude aesthetic. This consistent aesthetic has made Gehry one of the most distinctive and easily recognizable designers of the recent past.
In 1989, Frank Gehry was bestowed with the Nobel Prize-equivalent award, the prestigious Pritzker Prize—an annual award honouring a living architect ‘whose built work demonstrates combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.’
Gehry is among the rarefied group of architects who has become a household name. More importantly, over the past five decades, he has never lived by any common practice; disrupting the very meaning of design within architecture. From the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain (which Philip Johnson called ‘the greatest building of our time’) to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Gehry has repeatedly showcased a novel outcome that's created when a whimsical design is done masterfully.
The designs of Frank Gehry—one of the most innovative architects working today—grace numerous metropolitan skylines around the world. Gehry who will turn 91 in Feb 2020, lives and works in Los Angeles. An article published in The Guardian (24 Feb 2019) titled, Frank Gehry at 90, states, “Gehry who turns 90 on Thursday, is not slowing down much. He says that he wouldn’t know how to retire. ‘I love working. I love working things out. I love the client interaction – I think it’s a 50-50 game. I love that we do what we do, and bring it in under budget, which no one believes, but it’s true.’”
Hemalatha is a Chennai-based architect with experience in practicing & teaching architecture, and co-founder of SIDART Photography.