Frank Gehry: An Overview of His Life and Contribution to the World of Architecture
Ephraim Owen Goldberg was born in 1929 in Toronto, Canada where he used to make ‘little cities’ with his grandmother out of wood scrap (Templer 1999). By the year 1947, at the age of 18, his family changed its name to Gehry and then moved to Los Angeles, California, where he took night classes at City College, and then earned his degree in architecture in the year 1954 at the age of 25 (Templer 1999). By that time, influential architects in America were composed of Raphael Soriano, Richard Neutra, and Harwell Harris (Friedman&Gehry 9). They were among the people—aside from his grandmother—who influenced Gehry to try his luck on design and architecture. The years after that were troublesome for the young man… “working, serving a stint in the Army and studying urban planning for a year at Harvard before dropping out” (Templer 1999). In 1961, at the age of 32, he took his first wife and two daughters to Paris, where his career started to become triumphant under the architects Pereira and Lickman (Templer, 1999), and led him to start spending days examining and studying architectural buildings and designs. The year after, Gehry met loads of designers, engineers and architects, so that five years after, was able to set up his firm, Frank O. Gehry and Associates. By the start of the 21st century, he was traveling around Europe, the United Stated, and Asia to some of the world’s most prominent project sites recorded in history. These were about to become the ‘signature buildings’ of the cities.
Gehry’s Starting Career
It was in the ‘60s when Gehry really started to learn it the systematic way. With a group of Los Angeles artists such as Edward Moses, Robert Irwin, Billy Al Bengston, Chuck Arnoldi, Ron Davis, Larry Bell, and Edward Ruscha (Friedman&Gehry 9), he learned to take his hand on different materials and how they react to light, force and texture. He even got his expression of Hollywood through the help of his friends who were members of the said industry. Having been transferred to L.A. only recently, by the ‘60s Gehry “responds to its presence, and expresses its influence in the exuberant cinematic movement that often animates his work” (Friedman&Gehry 9). By the start of the ‘70s, his furnitures labeled ‘Easy Edges’, and then ‘Rough Edges’ later on, became a hit in the market. These were usually chairs, stools, tables, and ottoman that were the first big throws of Gehry. Being driven to California’s natural luminosity and vibrance, especially during springtime, he bought a pink cottage and renovated it to become his first masterpiece that really became a hit, and which has driven lots of spectators everyday, despite its being designed under its theme of ‘privacy’. This inexpensive renovation (Templer 1999) started his journey in becoming the ‘starchitect’ of the 21st century (Wikipedia 2007).
Gehry’s Renowned, Significant Works
After redesigning and innovating his residence in 1978, he designed numerous buildings in the United States, such as Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, California starting in the year 1978; the Santa Monica Place and Edgemar Retail Complex of Santa Monica, California starting 1982 and 1984 consequently; the Chiat/Day Building of Venice, California starting 1985; the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories of the University of Iowa since 1987; and the Vitra Design Museum in Germany in 1989 (Wikipedia 2007). It was also in the 1980s when Gehry innovated the house of Pehny and Mike Winton, when their elegant suburban house hardly fitted their five married children (Friedman&Gehry 17). By that time, Gehry has just finished designing the Chiat/Day Building in Venice, as well as the Aerospace Museum at the L.A. Exposition Park (Friedman&Gehry 17). As stated by Pehny and Mike Winton, “… Loyola Law School was the one that really blew us away—Penny and I were hooked” (Friedman&Gehry 17). The Chiat/Day Building, on the other hand, had a headless and tailless fish form that becomes ‘a 54-foot-long communal room’ for conferences that, inside, has a huge conference table with great sound effects and great illumination.
When the ‘90s came, Gehry designed the Frederick Weisman Museum of Art in the University of Minnesota in 1990; the Disney Village of Paris, France in 1992; the Center for Visual Arts of the University of Toledo in 1993; the American Center at Paris, France in 1994; the Dancing House of the Czech Republic and the Anaheim ICE in California in 1995; the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao of Spain in 1997; and the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies of the University of Cincinnati in 1999 (Wikipedia 2007). It was the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao that became very renowned in the field of global architecture and building construction. As stated by Andrew Ballantyne (2002), it is presented as an example of Deconstructivism (17), where it “belongs very securely in the realm of global tourist culture” (108). Bent Flyvbjerg (2005) even mentioned that this unique artistry was built ‘on time and budget’, as it makes more money than was estimated (52). This was where Gehry’s advantage over his idol Utzon falls down—the latter responsible for Australia’s Sydney Opera House. Gehry could work with strained time and budget. As stated by Flyvberg (2005), “Frank Gehry has a reputation for building on time and budget, even for large, complex, and innovative structures. I asked Gehry how he and his associates do it. Gehry explained that the first step is to ensure… the organization of the artist” (Flyvberg 53).
By the year 2000, Gehry designed the DG Bank Building of Germany and the Experience Music Project of Seattle, Washington; Gehry Tower of Germany and Issey Miyake of New York in 2001; the Peter B. Lewis Building of Cleveland, Ohio in 2002; Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in New York and Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. in 2003; Ray and Maria Stata Center of Massachusetts and Pritzker Pavilion of Chicago in 2004; as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation of Paris in 2006 among others (Wikipedia 2007). When Gehry built the Stata Center of Massachusetts, his theme was “to create a space that would support interdisciplinary projects and encourage audacious innovation-a space” (Ellsworth 70). With the entrance of Gehry in the world of architectural designs and constructivism, a new and never-before inclination entered the world of global artistry.
According to Andrew Ballantyne (2002), “The language of architectural history includes words that designate different styles of architecture, and they are associated with different places and times” (10). In the case of Gehry, this fact is seen on how the artist uses space, light, force and sound in expressing a vision that, before, exists only in the realm of the imagination… and all these were brought about by one’s cultural and historical background. Ellsworth (2005) noted that Gehry creates a design that leads to ‘continuous learning’ and ‘pedagogy’, which are all brought about from the sprouting of new ideas and images (70). The effect of ‘deconstructivism’ that is present in Gehry’s works points to his ideology—his own expression of the world and how the world should be and should appear to be. This language of architecture that is free flowing, lasting and imprecise is what Gehry has attempted to remind people about—that design comes from the mind and as free-flowing as the mind. With this, it is evident how immense Gehry has contributed to design and artistry.
Ballantyne, Andrew. Architecture: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Ellsworth, Elizabeth. Places of Learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Flyvberg, Bent. “Design by Deception: The Politics of Megaproject Approval.” Harvard Design Magazine Spring/Summer 2005: 50-59.
Friedman, Mildren, and Frank O. Gehry. Gehry Talks: Architecture + Process. New York, NY: Rizzoli, 1999.
“Frank Gehry.” Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 2007. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 12 February 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Gehry>.
Templer, Karen. “Frank Gehry.” 5 October 1999. Salon Brilliant Careers. 12 February 2007 <http://www.salon.com/people/bc/1999/10/05/gehry/index.html>.
Murray, Peter. The Saga of the Sydney Opera House: The Dramatic Story of the Design and Construction of the Icon of Modern Australia. New York: Routledge, 2004.
 Karen Templer, Frank Gehry (Salon Brilliant Careers, 1999) http://www.salon.com/people/bc/1999/10/05/gehry/index.html.
 Mildred Friedman and Frank O. Gehry, Gehry Talks: Architecture + Process (New York, NY: Rizzoli, 1999) 9.
 “Frank Gehry”, Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2007) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Gehry.
 Bent Flyvberg, Design by Deception: The Politics of Megaproject Approval (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Design Magazine, 2005) 53.
 Elizabeth Ellsworth, Places of Learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy (New York: Routledge, 2005) 70.