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Frank Gehry

The Gehry tower in Hannover
The Gehry tower in Hannover

Frank Owen Gehry (born Ephraim Goldberg on February 28, 1929) is an architect known for his interesting use of metal sheathing for his buildings. He was born in Toronto, Canada, but moved to California at age 17 where he graduated from the University of Southern California School of Architecture. He is today a naturalized American citizen and lives in Los Angeles. He is best known for building curvaceous structures, often covered with reflective metal. His most famous work, and the clearest expression of his style, is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, which is covered in titanium.

Gehry's style is derived from late modernism. The tortured, warped forms of his structures are considered expressions of the deconstructivist (DeCon) school of modernist architecture. The DeCon movement departs from modernism in its de-emphasis of societal goals and functional necessity. Unlike early modernist structures, DeCon structures are not required to reflect specific social ideas (e.g. speed, universality of form), and they do not reflect a belief that form follows function. DeCon, which Gehry has continued to refine, is also known as the Santa Monica school of architecture. This region of the United States has produced the greatest range of experimentation in the field of DeCon design and contains the largest concentration of the structures.

Gehry is considered a modern architectural icon and celebrity. He has appeared in Apple's black and white "Think Different" pictorial ad campaign that associates offbeat but revered figures with Apple's design philosophy. His buildings, including his private residence, have become tourist attractions. Many museums, firms, and cities seek Gehry's services as a badge of distinction, regardless of the product he delivers.

Seattle's EMP music museum represents this phenomenon at its most extreme. Microsoft's Paul Allen chose Gehry as the architect of an urban structure to house his public collection of music history artifacts. Gehry, on the strength of his celebrity status, was selected to design the building. While the result was undeniably unique, critical reaction came in the form of withering attacks. The bizzare color choices, the total disregard for architectural harmony with the built and natural surroundings, and the mammoth scale led to accusations that Gehry had simply "got it wrong." Admirers of the building remind critics that similar attacks were levelled against the Eiffel Tower in the late 19th century, and that only historical perspective would allow a fair evaluation of the building's merits.

Recently, Gehry has appeared to repeat himself. The disjointed metal panoply that has become Gehry's trademark may be on the verge of over-exposure. Almost all of his recent work seems derivative of his landmark Bilbao Guggenheim. His critics and admirers alike are watching with anticipation to see whether Gehry is able produce equally compelling forms in a different idiom.




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Last updated: 10-12-2005 03:27:19
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