Frank Gehry, is a Canadian-born American architect, residing in Los Angeles. He is among the most acclaimed architects of the 20th century, well known for his use of striking, postmodern shapes and unexpected constructions.
Gehry was born on 28 February, 1929, and with encouragement from his grandmother, he began displaying his creative potentials from a very young age, using scraps of wood and corrugated steel from his grandfather’s hardware store to build little futuristic cities full of imaginary houses on the living room floor.
Uncertain of his career direction, Gehry attempted a number of occupations without much success, ranging from truck driving to chemical engineering. He began wracking his brain about the things that excited him and inspired him, and remembered how much he loved art and going to museums, and just on a hunch, decided to enroll onto some architecture classes. Gehry went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from USC in 1954.
In 1957, along with friend and old classmate Greg Walsh, Gehry was given the opportunity to design and construct his first private residence project “The David Cabin” for a family neighbour. Built in Idyllwild, the 2,000 sq ft mountain retreat showcases unique design features such as protruding beams from exterior sides and exposed, unfinished ceiling beams, that were to become prominent in later work.
Some years later in 1978, Gehry came into his first significant brush with fame through virtue of the Santa Monica residence he designed for himself and his family. The project saw an existing bungalow wrapped in angular volumes, and emblazoned within a muddle of everyday suburban materials such as plywood and chain link. As opinionated as it was sculptural, the house earned both praise and criticism in equal measures. In 2012, it came to win the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious Twenty-Five Year Award.
Other buildings designed by Gehry during this era include the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (1981) in San Pedro and the California Aerospace Museum (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” hailing his buildings as “juxtaposed collages of spaces and materials that make users appreciative of both the theatre and the backstage, simultaneously revealed.”
Since then, Gehry has won several major commissions, further establishing himself as one of the world’s most notable architects. His best received projects include several concert halls for classical music, such as the bold, curvaceous Walt Disney Concert Hall (2003) in Los Angeles, which has been dubbed as “the most effective answer to doubters, naysayers, and grumbling critics an American architect has ever produced” by the Los Angeles Times.
Another of Gehry’s notable projects is the Fondation Louis Vuitton, set in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne park. Commissioned by LVMH chief Bernard Arnault and completed in 2014, the exterior includes 12 glass “sails” cladding the concrete gallery spaces, resembling a ship-like structure.
A number of Gehry’s buildings, including his private residence, have become world-renowned attractions. His works were cited as some of 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”. Gehry’s unique style of work never fails to disrupt the public’s expectations, and that is the reason we’ve picked him as this month’s Architect Focus.