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Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry Paperback – November 14, 2017
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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“Fascinating. . . . An informative, startling journey into the inner sanctums of modern architecture’s power structure.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Revealing. . . . A penetrating portrait.” —Morning Edition/NPR
“Riveting. . . . Full of little-known facts about the Pritzker Prize-winner that will surprise the most knowledgable Gehry-philes.” —Architectural Digest
“Excellent and comprehensive. . . . Undeniably fascinating.” —Bloomberg
“Terrifically readable. . . . Satisfying detail on Gehry’s career path and hugely complex personality.” —Los Angeles Times
“Convey[s] the architect’s personality and process with deft strokes that have an artistic ease of their own. . . . If you’re intrigued by Frank Gehry . . . I can’t recommend this expansive survey of his life and work too highly.” —John King, San Francisco Chronicle
“Fascinating. . . . Agilely balances the disparate subjects of art and biography. Goldberger’s critical assessments of Gehry’s designs are insightful and often riveting.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Critically fluent, socially and psychologically acute. . . . An involving work of significant architectural history and a discerning and affecting portrait of a daring and original master builder.” —Booklist (starred review)
“This full-length critical study of an important contemporary architect is by one of our finest architectural critics. . . . [An] outstanding volume. . . . Highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Richly researched, intelligent, and graceful.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[Goldberger] contextualizes Gehry’s work with smart discussions of trends in Modernism and the Los Angeles art scene that inspired such trends, and offers his usual shrewd, evocative insights into the look and feel of buildings.” —Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Paul Goldberger, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, spent fifteen years as the architecture critic for The New Yorker and began his career at The New York Times, where he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism for his writing on architecture. He is the author of many books, most recently Why Architecture Matters, Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture, and Up From Zero. He teaches at The New School and lectures widely around the country on architecture, design, historic preservation, and cities. He and his wife, Susan Solomon, live in New York City.
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The author takes us from Gehry’s difficult childhood in Toronto in the 1930s, through the move to Los Angeles in 1947, architecture school at USC, a stint in the army, city planning at Harvard, work for shopping mall designer Victor Gruen, time in Paris and then back to LA where he launched his practice in 1962. There he found friendship with, and inspiration from, a circle of up-and-coming modern painters who incorporated ordinary found objects in their work. Subsequent chapters cover the building of his and second wife Berta’s famous cyclone fence house in Santa Monica, his fish sculptures and cardboard furniture, the commissions for Bilbao and Disney, the range of New York work, the Dwight Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D. C., and the Louis Vuitton Museum in Paris, which opened last year.
The author is adept at drawing Gehry out and getting at the thinking, and the contexts and stories, behind the designs. In a way Goldberger acts as kind of architectural therapist, helping Gehry unravel and make sense of a lifetime of anxiety about his own work and, in effect, complementing the actual psychotherapy Gehry received from his friend the psychologist Milton Wexler. So I guess you could say that this book is the architect’s ultimate “psychiatry couch session.”
One theme that’s especially strong throughout Building Art is the sense of contradiction, both within Gehry’s nature and his art. For example, Goldberger writes: “Frank’s work represented emotion as much as intellect and emerged out of intuition far more than theory; like all of his architecture, Bilbao was at once pragmatic and idealistic.” He makes the point that Gehry was heavily influenced, in a push-pull sort of way, by the mid-century California modernism of his early milieu. Describing the billowing shapes of Disney Hall, he writes: “The great sails were a symbol of the new, but they were also a way of creating decoration, or giving the building an element that existed solely for visual pleasure. Frank was consciously going against the puritanical strain that had always run through modernist architecture, the belief that a building needed to be ‘honest,’ ‘pure,’ and ‘rational’ — that ornamentation was not just a self-indulgent frill and a useless return to historical copying, but an ethical transgression, a violation of modernist principles.”
A related theme is Gehry’s desire to express movement in architecture, leading to his manipulation of fish shapes and compound curves, which drew inspiration from Japanese carp and Greek sculpture. Expressive movement would become his way of providing the third ingredient in the classical Vitruvian definition of architecture as “commodity, firmness, and delight.” Goldberger explains: “The architecture of Bilbao would articulate his larger goals more clearly than ever before: he wanted less to shock than to find a fresh and different way of using architecture to produce the sensations of satisfaction, comfort, and pleasure that more traditional buildings did.”
I have experienced a concert at Disney Hall and there Frank Gehry made not only a new symbol for LA on the outside, but also a space that lifts the audience, reshapes and recombines it with the orchestra, and transports both into a sensual new reality. It’s a room that does more than reverberate — it resonates. So does this book.
his writing for the new york times and the new yorker bear witness to this
frank gehry is controversial,but arguably the most important living architect in the world.
it is a rare confluence of talent that shaped this book
as an architect,i found it to be a gift.
in general,i very much appreciated learning more about the cultural and historical context in which gehry s career and personal development took place
a great read
I loved it and gave one to everyone I know who enjoys a great book.
Frank Gehry, by now in his mid-80's, is still hard at work. A man who is uncompromising in his architectural principles, he is known for his buildings all over the world. As an architect, the Canadian-born Gehry - he changed his last name from "Goldberg" to "Gehry" - began his practice in Los Angeles in the early 1950's. He was sought out to design commercial buildings and public buildings, but he gained worldwide fame with his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain in the 1990's. Suddenly everyone wanted a Frank Gehry-building, but his type of architecture must go through many levels of approval by both financial and artist groups, and many a design never left the drawing boards in Gehry's Los Angeles office. But he has built grand buildings from Berlin to Paris to Los Angeles to parts of Asia.
Paul Goldberger gives as complete a picture of Frank Gehry on a personal level as he does on a professional one. Twice married and the father of four children, Goldberger makes no secret of Gehry's failings as a parent, particularly of the two daughters from his first marriage. Of course, Gehry was building his career, which is often the case.
All in all, Paul Goldberger's biography of Frank Gehry is outstanding. Whether you like Gehry's work or not. The only complaint I have about the book, which I read in e-book form, was that it had a lot of typos. I also wish there were more photographs, but by reading it on my iPad, I was able to switch over to Wikipedia when I wanted to see a building whose picture was not included in the book.