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Frank Gehry Hardcover – October, 2002
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A biography of Frank Gehry. Frank Owen Gehry, CC (born Frank Owen Goldberg; February 28, 1929) is a Canadian American Pritzker Prize-winning architect based in Los Angeles, California. His buildings, including his private residence, have become tourist attractions. His works are often 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".
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The book provides an overview of Mr. Gehry's career and interests in Jason Miller's introduction. I was surprised by the many parallels to Frank Lloyd Wright's career. Like Wright, he designed both homes and public buildings. He also designs furniture, using ordinary materials with an eye to making furniture more affordable. Unlike Wright, he often did mundane designs early in his career for commercial developments. Also like Wright, companies were interested in how his designs could make them more productive. The Chiat/Day Building's conference rooms in a binocular reminded me of Wright's conference room space in his original home and studio. Mr. Gehry also does fish designs, modeled after the carp his mother would bring home to make gefilte fish for the family. Even more impressive is the way that some buildings feature marvelous pop art sculptures, especially by Claes Oldenburg. The introduction also explains how Mr. Gehry begins with physical models, and his staff uses a software model to convert those models into physical designs for construction.
The highlights of the books come in the many fine color photographs of the exteriors and interiors of his buildings. The outsides are often almost outlandish. For instance, his residence in Santa Monica, California looks like a construction site in the middle of a dense garden from the exterior. Inside, the views are more soothing and inviting (except perhaps for the wire reinforcement in the window glass). In other cases, the exterior makes a major point about the interior such as in the California Aerospace Museum and Theater which has a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter hung on an outside wall while part of the adjacent building's walls slant as though flying themselves. The interior looks like a hanger, and reminded me of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. His use of materials can be quite eclectic, which you see in the tiny Norton Residence in Venice, California. I was fascinated to see the almost-Usonian appearance of the Sirmai-Peterson residence in Thousand Oaks, California. In this design and many others, he uses water or reflective materials on the building's exterior to create beautiful interactions with the environment and light.
I liked his museum spaces best. The Frederick R. Weisman Art and Teaching Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota seemed like a modern rendition of an academic ivory tower that attracts the eye like a cathedral does. I was also interested to read about how the materials seem up close on the exteriors. He also pays close attention to the surrounding landscape so that the building complements and is complemented by the landscape. He is not, however, as modest as Mr. Wright was in wanting his buildings to fit into the landscape in a secondary way (like Taliesin in Wisconsin does). Instead, these museums are monuments to art and culture in the way that the pyramids were monuments to religious beliefs among the ancient Egyptians. The willingness to bend the plane into curves makes these monuments seem organic, human and interesting however. So we are attracted to them while being filled with awe for the imagination. Undoubtedly, anyone who works in one of these buildings is going to see the world in nontraditional ways. Very nice!
If you look at only one book of modern architecture this year, I recommend you make it this one.
Although I have not seen any other of Mr. Gehry's works in person, I would very much like to do so. I hope you will, too.