Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry in 2007
Born Frank Owen Goldberg
(1929-02-28) February 28, 1929 (age 85)
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, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Gehry Residence, Weisman Art Museum, Dancing House, Art Gallery of Ontario, EMP/SFM, Cinémathèque française, 8 Spruce Street, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Of Art The Vontz Center for Molecular Studies, University of Cincinnati

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

His buildings, including his private residence, have become 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-covered Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; The Vontz Center for Molecular Studies on the University of Cincinnati campus; Experience Music Project in Seattle; 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]

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. This will be Gehry's first building in London.[4]

Personal life

Gehry was born Frank Owen Goldberg[1] on February 28, 1929, in Toronto, Ontario to parents, Irwin and Thelma (née Thelma Caplan) Goldberg.[5] His parents were Polish Jews.[6] A creative child, he was encouraged by his grandmother, Mrs. Caplan, with whom he would build little cities out of scraps of wood.[7] 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.[5] 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."[8]

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. 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] In 1952 he married Anita Snyder, and in 1956 he changed his name to Frank O. Gehry at her suggestion, in part because of the anti-semitism he had experienced as a child and as an undergraduate at USC. Gehry graduated at the top of his class with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from USC in 1954. Afterwards, 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).[5] In 1966 he and Snyder divorced. In 1975 he married Panamanian Berta Isabel Aguilera, his current wife. He has two daughters from his first marriage, and two sons from his second marriage.

Having grown up in Canada, Gehry is a huge fan of ice hockey. He began a hockey league in his office, FOG (which stands for Frank Owen Gehry), though he no longer plays with them. In 2004, he designed the trophy for the World Cup of Hockey. Gehry holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. He lives in Santa Monica, California, and continues to practice out of Los Angeles.

Architectural style

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".[10] 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.


Reception of Gehry's work is not always positive. Art historian Hal Foster reads Gehry's architecture as, primarily, in the service of corporate branding.[11] Criticism of his work includes complaints that the buildings waste structural resources by creating functionless forms, do not seem to belong in their surroundings and are apparently designed without accounting for the local climate.[12]

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Gehry's proposed design for the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial has been severely criticized by the president's son John Eisenhower and granddaughter Susan Eisenhower, who said her entire family opposes it.[13][14] Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe's architecture critic, said about the design, "It’s way too big. It’s too cartoony. Someone should scrub the design and start over."[15] Roger L. Lewis, an architect and a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, criticized and opposed the design in the Washington Post: "Building a quasi-fenced precinct makes no sense. The narrative theme relating to Eisenhower’s boyhood, so visually dominant in the present design, also makes no sense. Gehry instead could craft a less grandiose yet visually powerful memorial composition..."[16] Columnist Richard Cohen wrote that the Memorial does not accurately capture Eisenhower's life.[17] George F. Will also opposed the design in the Washington Post.[18] The design has been criticised in The New Republic,[19] National Review,[20] Foreign Policy,[21] Metropolis Magazine,[22] The American Spectator,[23] and The Washington Examiner.[24]

However, Philip Kennicott, the Washington Post's culture critic, praised the design: "Gehry has produced a design that inverts several of the sacred hierarchies of the classical memorial, emphasising ideas of domesticity and interiority rather than masculine power and external display. He has 're-gendered' the vocabulary of memorialisation, giving it new life and vitality..."[25]

Other aspects of career


In January 2011 he joined the University of Southern California (USC) faculty, as the Judge Widney Professor of Architecture.[26]


The Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles resulted in over 10,000 RFIs (requests for information) and was $174 million over budget. Furthermore, there was a dispute which ended with a $17.8 million settlement.[27]

Celebrity status

He voiced himself on the TV show Arthur, where he helped Arthur and his friends design a new treehouse.[28] Steve Sample, President of the University of Southern California, told Gehry that "...After George Lucas, you are our most prominent graduate". In 2009 Gehry designed a hat for pop star Lady Gaga, reportedly by using his iPhone.[29]

Fish and furniture

Gehry is inspired by fish. "It was by accident I got into the fish image", claimed Gehry. One thing that sparked his interest in fish was the fact that his colleagues are recreating Greek temples. He said, "Three hundred million years before man was fish....if you gotta go back, and you're insecure about going forward...go back three hundred million years ago. Why are you stopping at the Greeks? So I started drawing fish in my sketchbook, and then I started to realize that there was something in it."[30]

In addition to architecture, Gehry has made a line of furniture, jewelry for Tiffany & Co., various household items, sculptures, and even a glass bottle for Wyborowa Vodka. His first line of furniture, produced from 1969 to 1973, was called "Easy Edges", constructed out of cardboard. Another line of furniture released in the spring of 1992 is "Bentwood Furniture". Each piece is named after a different hockey term. He was first introduced to making furniture in 1954 while serving in the U.S. Army, where he designed furniture for the enlisted soldiers. Gehry claims that making furniture is his "quick fix".[31]

Software development

Gehry's firm was responsible for innovation in architectural software.[32] His firm spun off another firm called Gehry Technologies which developed Digital Project.


Awards and honors

Gehry was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1974, and he has received many national, regional and local AIA awards. He is a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council and serves on the steering committee of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Honorary doctorates

See also

Biography portal
Architecture portal



Further reading

External links

  • Gehry Partners, LLP, Gehry's architecture firm
  • Gehry Technologies, Inc., Gehry's technology firm
  • Template:TED
  • Internet Movie Database
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • Template:Guardiantopic
  • Template:NYTtopic
  • Fish Forms: Lamps by Frank Gehry Exhibition (2010) at The Jewish Museum (New York)
  • STORIES OF HOUSES: Frank Gehry's House in California
  • Bidding for the National Art Museum of China’s new site
  • Gehry Draws on Violette Editions