A Visual Guide To Frank Gehry's Most Beautiful Buildings
Born in 1929, Canadian–American architect Frank Gehry is a leading figure of the Deconstructivist Movement, rejecting the idea that “form follows function.” Here are ten of his most stunning buildings from around the world, ranging from the epic Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris to the shimmering, metallic masterpiece that is the Guggenheim Museum in Spain.
On the riverside of Bilbao, Spain, the ship-like form of Gehry’s Guggenheim shimmers with warm light reflected from the cool waters. The undulating metallic planes are serene, like the ripples and waves below. At night the building is lit with tones of blue, green and purple, reflecting the colors of a Bilbao evening sky. This is a dynamic place of ever-changing surfaces and rhythmic transitions of space and void. Despite the effect of fluidity, it is also very solid, a majestic guardian of art, giving a sense of timelessness to modern architecture.
Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the concert hall was built as a tribute to Walt Disney’s devotion to the arts and his love of the city. In the original design the building had a stone exterior, but, due to a limited budget, this was later changed to the steel cladding – which makes the building so distinctively Gehry’s. The architecture has a music of its own, the melody of intersecting planes mimic a graphic score while delivering the harmony of light and form that Gehry does so well.
The Dancing House in Prague stands on the site where a house was destroyed by the U.S. bombing of Prague in 1945. In 1992 work began on the building, taking into account the previous architect Milunić’s idea of a static and dynamic architecture symbolizing the transition of Czeckoslovakia from communism to democracy. The regularity of the windows on one part is juxtaposed by the swaying form of the other; a beautiful interplay of movement and stasis. Now the building houses offices and an art gallery that is well worth a visit on your next trip to Prague.
One of Frank Gehry’s few skyscrapers, 8 Spruce Street – formerly known as Beekman Tower – is a striking addition to the New York skyline. On the date of its opening in 2011, 8 Spruce Street was the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere. The square structure features several long swaying ridges running its length – for this, it has been likened to a nuclear meltdown. However, these ridges give the building its distinctive character, in contrast to the geometric purity of much of New York’s architecture.
Dedicated to contemporary popular culture, the Experience Music Project is an exciting addition to Seattle’s cultural scene. Described by some as ‘The Blob,” the multi-colored, multi-textured exterior is not to everyone’s taste, but nevertheless reflects the ‘in-your-face’ nature of pop culture. This building has true architectural originality: the exposed materials give an honesty that contrasts to the artifice of the exterior, while the softly-lit concrete planes are the calm after the initial storm of color. Love it or hate it, this is a building perfect for its purpose.
Completed in 2014, the Dr Chau Chak Wing is Gehry’s most recent addition to the world of architecture. The 12-story tower is home to a new business school, part of the University of Technology in Sydney. The organic appearance resembles Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – yet the building is interspersed with modern elements, such as great glass shards that shatter the smooth flow of the site, geometric rectangular windows that pierce the curvaceous walls, and the textured brickwork that follows the monumental earthy walls. The deconstructivist elements of Gehry’s earlier works still have a place amidst the natural forms of The Dr Chau Chak Wing.
Located in the beautiful park Bois de Boulogne in Paris, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is an art gallery and cultural centre sponsored by the Louis Vuitton group. Upon visiting the nearby Jardin d’Acclimatation, Frank Gehry envisioned a structure inspired by the Grand Palais. His re-imagining of this historic site has created a voluminous steel and glass building likened to two vast sails enveloping an iceberg. The smooth curves of these “sails” embrace the interior, and each one was created to follow the vital lines of Gehry’s drawings, directly connecting the fabric of the building with the hand of the architect.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is a gallery in Mississippi displaying the ceramics of George E. Ohr, the “Mad Potter of Biloxi.” Gehry began a complex of five buildings in 2004, but was interrupted when Hurricane Katrina pushed a casino barge onto the site in 2005. In 2010 the first of Gehry’s buildings opened, described as “stainless-steel pods designed to dance among the live oaks” of the current site. Some buildings take on a geometric, crystalline structure with clustered buildings projecting upwards from the earth; others are perfectly rounded, like a split seed pod. The variety of architecture on the site is a testament to the ingenuity and color of George E. Ohr’s celebrated works.
The Weatherhead School of Management, part of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, is an innovative space for education. The asymmetrical, decentralized design was chosen so that faculty offices, common areas and classrooms can be distributed on every floor, encouraging interaction between students and lecturers alike. In contrast to the revivalist architecture of the main campus, the Weatherhead School is a striking blend of industrial materials and elegance of shape. Gehry’s iconic metallic forms are prevalent here: the curving, twisting planes are revolutionary and harmonious, like the institute’s ethics – using business to “build foundations of peace through commerce.”
The Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rheim, Germany, was created to house the works of important American designers – and who better to design the architecture than Frank Gehry? The Vitra Design Museum was Gehry’s first European project. Embodying his love of deconstructivism, this building does not embrace Gehry’s usual materials, but a titanium zinc-alloy and white plaster similar to the Modernist style of Le Corbusier. The symphony of grey and white, helical curves and floating geometry belie the exciting minimalism of the collections within.
By Tamsin Nicholson
Tamsin Nicholson is currently studying Art History in Glasgow. With the Royal Naval Reserves, she sails to off-the-beaten track costal locations. Her keen interest in art and culture has taken her through Europe by train and across the Atlantic. Find her doing tours of Glasgow Cathedral.