Unit 2, Part 1, Research task: Frank Gehry

I watched ‘Sketches of Frank Gehry’ and ‘Manifesto by Frank Gehry’.

I observed that Frank Gehry’s creative process is a bit like mine. I have previously noted that the hardest is to start, therefore I procrastinate. And once I start it is all much easier. Gehry made a similar observation about his own process. Perhaps it is like that for most people.

Mr Gehry mixes art with architecture – I would dare to say he is an ‘art-chitect’. He takes risk with his creations, wants them to be unusual – the ‘weirder’ the better. He is a visionary who often seems to be setting the precedent rather than look for one. Interestingly he did not fit amongst other architects but found a support group amongst artists.

He makes models, then changes them. After that, he does not like what he created. He continues to look and contemplate. He wants to find out what exactly needs changing to make him like it more. His model making process uses trial and error, but a slow and carefully considered one. Putting model together makes him discover the next step or a different feature. He believes accidents are sometimes failures, but they are important step in the design process. He spends time to find something good in them. Frank believes project drawings and models are lifeless, but once the built is complete, the intended energy shows. Some of his model shapes look like they could be built using Lego bricks – yet very original, complicated shapes.

Like Charles Eames, Frank Gehry is a problem solver.

He involves his team in looking and contemplating and implementing changes. A lot of the design process is looking together and having constant conversations about the model. Frank relies on his team, they have long standing relationships, communicate well, and understand one another.

He is great materials researcher.

Introducing CAD technology into model making and design process allowed Frank to design more freely and gave him more artistic flexibility, while being clearer to the contractors and leaving less room for their interpretation. Sketch models are still important for him to understand and see how the elements work together.

As a child Frank played ‘master planning’ with his grandmother – building entire cities using toy blocks. He also loved drawing as a child and was considered talented by his teacher. Perhaps this is when it all started.

Being a painter is Frank’s dream. Despite being so artistic he never tried it, he said he would not know how to. He believes painting and architecture have something in common – surface.

Function is always at the heart of his designs. Whether its art, education, leisure etc. the design must fulfil this priority, his ideas come second.

When creating he thinks outside of the box – for example he looked at a painting (‘Christ mocked’ by H. Bosh) as a composition and fed this composition into the design. He understands light and its effect on the spaces. When the process is too easy, he thinks it is wrong – he believes design process has to be difficult to be exciting.

Brief is sanctity for Frank, meeting the brief is the priority for him. Frank absorbs what client says – not only the words, but also the atmosphere around them and the whole mood in the room, the smell, the light… Then he comes up with the model.

He also looks at the context, the surroundings and decides how the new design will act in response to pre-existing buildings. For example, Walt Disney Concert Hall’s shapes relate to those of Chandler buildings next door. Disney Hall structure is ‘broken into smaller pieces’ to give it own identity.


Sketches of Frank Gehry. (2005) Directed by Pollack, S. [YouTube] At:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prdug_iuiFQ (Accessed 07/07/2021)

Manifesto by Frank Gehry (2017) [Online Video] At: Manifesto by Frank Gehry on Vimeo (Accessed 07/07/2021)

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