Frank Owen Goldenberg, better known as Frank Gehry, is a Canadian architect whose work is as original as it is controversial.
Gehry was born on February 28, 1929 in Toronto, in Canada, to Jewish parents. In 1947 he moved to Los Angeles. He studied architecture at the University of Southern California and town planning at Harvard. After spending time in Paris, in 1962 he returned to the US and began to practice architecture, designing his own work.
His approach to design is sculptural and organic. Shapes suspended in space, jutting edges and striking, fluid angles characterize his style. In 1978 he designed his own home in Santa Monica. He was able to “explode” the geometry of an existing building and create new spaces and dimensions inside it. The buildings he designed in the 1980s seemed like spaces made of light and air.
Between 1991 and 1997 he completed his most well known building, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The complex structure features unpredictable shapes and innovative titanium paneling. The museum made Gehry famous and drew interested tourists to Bilbao, helping lift the city out of an economic slump. Between 1992 and 1995 he worked on the Dancing House in Prague, one of the city’s new landmarks. The building, transparent and twisting, stands in sharp contrast to the stately old buildings around it. Gehry’s work has since become synonymous with organic, sinuous buildings.
In 2003 the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles was opened. The building exemplifies Gehry’s ability to combine aesthetics, innovation and functionality. Gehry describes it as a sailboat in full sail. The building also recalls the shape of a flower. Software developed for the aeronautical industry helped Gehry design the complex project.
In 2008 Gehry designed the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London. Part amphitheater and part promenade, the building looks like a modern take on Leonardo da Vinci’s catapults.
Gehry was recently commissioned to design the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi, planned to be the largest Guggenheim museum, and a museum of contemporary art in Paris financed by Louis Vuitton. Hailed as one of the greatest architects of our time, Gehry’s work is popular with both critics and the public. He has received numerous awards, including the 1989 Pritzker Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of architecture. In 2005, director Sydney Pollack made a documentary called Sketches of Frank Gehry.