October 5, 2015

Frank Gehry - Cutting into the past to make some room for a future

Frank Owen Gehry, born Frank Owen Goldberg in 1929 in Canada's Toronto, is a Pritzker Prize winning architect whose buildings have become world renowned 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".

He moved to California in 1947 where he got a job driving a delivery truck while studying at Los Angeles City College. In 1954 Gehry graduated at the top of his class with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. Afterwards, he spent time away from the field of architecture in numerous other jobs, including service in the United States Army.

The renovation of his own private residence in Santa Monica, California, jump-started his career but it can be argued that it was the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain that truly put his name on the map. Gehry's best-known works include the MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; The 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; New World Center in Miami Beach; 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.

Much of Gehry's work falls within the style of deconstructivism. Deconstructivist structures are not required to reflect specific social or universal ideas nor do they reflect the belief that form follows function. The style is characterized by fragmentation, an interest in manipulating a structure's surface and skin and non-rectilinear shapes which appear to distort and dislocate elements of architecture. The finished visual appearance of buildings that exhibit deconstructivist "styles" is characterized by unpredictability and controlled chaos.

I think of his buildings as similar but different to those of another legendary architect, Zaha Hadid. Both their styles seem to spring from that same futuristic well but where Hadid often opts for aggressive flowing curves, Gehry tends to love brutal straight cut lines. It's hard to really describe his style as it has manifested itself in many different forms. Sometimes he does incorporate curves into his structures but when he does they don't look purposeful like Hadid's. His curves give the impression that they started out as straight lines that ended up warped, almost as if erased by heat or pulled down by weight. Both Gehry and Hadid's buildings look natural but from different perspectives. Where Hadid's give me the impression that they sprang into existence, perhaps similar to how a seashell emerges from the void bottom up, Gehry's on the other hand remind me of a top down approach, appearing as if they were cut out of their surroundings the way wind shapes a mountain or water erodes a rocky coast line. Together with others like Daniel Liebeskind and Rem Koolhaas, they belong to a specific class of architects who all seem dead-set on materializing the future one building at a time.

Sketches of Frank Gehry

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