Modern Architecture and Frank Gehry

Frank Owen Gehry stands out as one of the most creative, revolutionary, and inventive architects of the 20th century. His application of unusual materials and interlocking structures will remain an inspiration to all architects around the world. His celebrated talent is attributed to the success of his work in Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Gehry was born in Toronto in the year 1929, but his family later moved to Los Angeles, where he was brought up. In1954, he earned a degree in architecture, one of his childhood dreams, and after graduating from Harvard school of design in 1963, he opened his architecture firm in California. Gehry’s structures and buildings define an intermediary between postmodernism and deconstructivism state of design (Glancey, 2011). This paper seeks to look into the life of Frank Gehry and his contribution to modern architectural designs.

In his childhood, Gehry’s creativity began to show with his passion for creating cities with pieces of wood. He had a passion for producing illustrative drawings, and this encouraged his parents to introduce him to the world of artistic drawing. In his early days as a boy, Gehry was very fond of art, paintings, and music. In his free time, he liked visiting museums and concerts in order to appreciate art. After his graduation, he spent some time doing different jobs, including the US army. However, this did not prevent him from following his passion in the field of artistic design, a passion that made him a renowned world architect (Filler, 2007).

Gehry’s long connection with present-day artists is reflected in his residential, commercial, and museum projects. Gehry is famous for his deconstructive aesthetic style in architectural design. This emerged from his interest in the hand on the approach of artists when designing their work. Architects in the US have admitted that Gehry’s work possessed a “creativity whim that defied trend and tradition of architecture.” Gehry applied his wild imagination to produce sketches of drawings and models of buildings regardless of basic design considerations to produce masterpiece designs (Filler, 2007). He is known for his disregard of symmetry or modernist grid to produce startling designs with strange curves. These unique designs, according to architects, redefined architecture in the United States and separated architecture from art (Glancey, 2011).

Gehry’s style of design is unique, an attribute that has propelled him to fame. His career was jump-started by his private residential property in Santa Monica. This residential property stands out as an attraction, a state of art construction that lifted his career from the conventional paper design to experimental architecture and design. The majority of his work falls under the deconstructivist style of architecture that extends beyond current modalities of the definition of structures. His application differs from the style of modernism since they do not reflect social ideas. His ideas are not a reflection of a belief, and mostly, they deviate from their original context. His designs have often been criticized as “crude and unfinished” since most apply inexpensive material to construct important objects. Other criticisms of his work include disregard for the surrounding and the climate and wastage of scarce resources (Glancey, 2011).

In the field of architecture, Gehry has earned prestigious awards including “The Pritzker Architecture Prize of 1989, the National Medal of Arts in 1998, and the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects in 1999”. The most important designs associated with Gehry include the German Vitra Design Museum in1990, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in1997), and the renowned Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall of 2003. In the year 2006, Gehry partnered with Tiffany & Company to produce a fashion jewelry collection. This partnership had its roots in his wide understanding and experience in design materials and explored the application of all forms of materials to produce highly sophisticated designs (Glancey, 2011).

Gehry’s designs have been appreciated for their uniqueness, creativity, and originality. One of his most significant designs, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, has been appreciated as a masterpiece of modern-day architecture. For any aspiring architect, it is important to learn about Gehry’s inspiring designs. His designs are packaged with innovative drawings, models, and plans which possess a unique vocabulary. Gehry builds himself with his openness to the concept of difference, and as many would say, he succeeded by challenging the rules. Due to his attitude in the field of architecture and design, he became the master in the transformation of materials to artistic architecture (Filler, 2007).

Gehry’s early residential work combined with commercial and institutional projects characterized the growth of his consequent design vocabulary. One of his earliest residential projects includes the makeover of his own home in Santa Monica in 1978. In this project, he utilized chain-link fencing, plywood material, corrugated sheet metal, and asphalt flooring to successfully construct a building around an existing building. This is later successfully executed in his subsequent designs in residential properties. Another project was Winton Guest House in Minnesota between 1983 and 1987. This was characterized by a group of the square, rectangular, cone, and wedge-shaped designs (Glancey, 2011).

Gehry’s propulsion into the limelight was brought by his unique designs, a reason why his designs are still famous. Between 1990 and 1993, Gehry undertook and completed a project with the design of Frederick Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis that marked the beginning of a transition as he moved ahead of the boundaries of usual rectilinear building vocabularies towards unique sculptural designs. These designs brought more technical sophistication and necessitated computer-aided designs. Between 1989 and 1992, a three-dimensional computer application was used to design the monumental fish sculpture in Spain, Vila Olimpica. This application, which was initially adopted for the French aerospace industry it made it easier for Gehry to translate his fluid drawings and models into built works. He was able to successfully realize his ambitious designs within the required project constraints (Glancey, 2011).

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao gives an outstanding instance of the dominant design of Gehry’s unconventional architecture. The museum acts as an attraction to millions of local and international tourists. It is a clear depiction of how the state of the art architectural design can contribute to the transformation of urban atmosphere and economic revitalization. A massive sculpture covered in stone, glass, and titanium shows the city’s industrial and maritime past.

The eye-catching structure is a doorway to the city’s historic and business districts. The internal features are different spaces created to provide room for a wide range of artistic work. Gehry is also celebrated for his experiments with furniture designs. These designs have been corresponding to his architectural achievements and include his celebrated cardboard furniture, carved wood furniture, fish and snake designs, and translucent plastic designs (Glancey, 2011). In conclusion, Gehry has contributed immensely to modern creativity and design in architecture.


Filler, M. (2007). Makers of Modern Architecture: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry. New York: New York Review Books.

Glancey, J. (2011, July 7). Frank Gehry: Dizzy heights. The Guardian , pp. 1-2.