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If you like Frank Gehry's story, you might also like:
J. Carter Brown,
Dale Chihuly,
Philip Johnson,
Maya Lin,
James Rosenquist
Vincent Scully and
Wayne Thiebaud

Frank Gehry also appears in the video:
Art and Architecture: Freedom of Expression and Form

Related Links:
The Pritzker Prize
Gehry Partners

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Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry
Profile of Frank Gehry Biography of Frank Gehry Interview with Frank Gehry Frank Gehry Photo Gallery

Frank Gehry Interview (page: 5 / 7)

Award-Winning Architect

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  Frank Gehry

You've spoken about what you hoped to express in a given building, a feeling of movement for instance, but how do you reconcile that with the fact that people also need to use those buildings?

Frank Gehry Interview Photo
Frank Gehry: They wouldn't get built if they didn't respond to the programs. In one case it's the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Another is in Toledo, Ohio, it's an art school. All of these buildings have very strict functional programs that have to be honored, and met and explored. I look at these programs, and many times question them, and try to present the clients with opportunities they haven't thought of. That involves them in the process. So at the end, a building is a product of working with the client.

One is in Czechoslovakia, Prague, on the beautiful river. It's adjacent to a 19th century building. Even though it has its own body language, it fits very well into the form of the city. I think the function is like the budget, you have to respect it, honor it and deal with it. And if you disagree with it, don't do it.

Has working in other cultures influenced you in your architecture?

Frank Gehry Interview Photo
Frank Gehry: I'm very concerned with that issue today (1995) in Seoul, Korea. I'm doing a museum on a very tight urban site, surrounded by half a dozen of the worst high-rise towers I've ever seen, the worst copies of American commercial architecture. But on the diagonals, the site looks at the mountains and looks at some shrines and temples. One of the shrines, Jongmyo, which I'd never heard of, has got to be at least in the top ten buildings ever built on this earth, and not many people know about it. It's an extraordinary building, and it's within view of my site, just like these others.

How do you fit in contextually? Even though the bad buildings are there, they're built, they're by human beings, there has to be a certain accommodation to them. You can't ignore them. So this is kind of an American image transplanted, and yet there is this landscape and these beautiful shrines. How to make these connections? And sitting right next to my site is a palace, a one-story Korean palace. And a 19th century two-story building. It's not very good, but it's protected building. All of these elements, I'm trying to gather them into my head and use them in some way. And then this building, as a museum, it has a function, it has galleries, and will show international art, so it has an international requirement. Then you get into all the requirements of showing art in galleries and so on.

Frank Gehry Interview Photo
In the end, the historic elements of the culture, the strengths of Korea, at this point I think have to do with gardens and landscapes, because most of their buildings were torn down by invaders over the years. How to recapture, how to understand, culturally, the needs of this community that needs to find a pride in art again, because it was destroyed for them. They're trying to search for that. So I'm looking at all of those things for this building. Will I succeed? I don't know, but I have to be interpretive, I have to bring all of those elements in: the history, the current, the present, the chaos.

How soon might we see that building?

Frank Gehry: Well, I'm presenting it in a couple of weeks. If they like it, we might see it. But if they don't, we won't.

Have new technologies and computers affected your work, and how?

Frank Gehry: I try very hard to get the energy of the idea, the first idea, the drawing, and that character to the finished building. And I hate all the computer images that I've been confronted with, from the beginning until today. However, since I've gotten involved with buildings that have shape to them, that are very difficult to describe to a contractor, to a builder, I've made a relationship by some circuitous route, through IBM, to the people in France that make the Mirage airplane, Dassault. And they have a software, or a program, CATIA, for making airplanes, that allowed us to describe steel structures and curved structures in a way that demystified them for the builder, so that they weren't afraid and didn't superimpose fear costs on the project. We've been very successful in that, and I think it's turned the tide. In other words, most architects and contractors are in mortal battle from the day they start. The contractor is scared of the costs and losing money, and the architect is pushing to get his or her dream to fruition, and they're in conflict. And I found, through this funny gadget, that the architect can become the master builder, can become the leader, can direct the project, and the contractor likes it. They would rather be the child in the equation than the parent. They'd rather have the conceiver take a parental role. So it's through this technology that I've found, in the few projects now, that it's been very possible to change that relationship, in a positive way, for everybody.

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Does working with computers make a difference in terms of two-dimensional and three-dimensional thinking?

Frank Gehry: I don't like the computer, except as a gadget to explain myself to the contractors. But I did, in the course of working with it, get into trying to design on it, even though I hate the imagery. I likened it to putting my hand in the fire and seeing how long you could keep it in there before I pulled it out. So I would sit at the thing. It took about three minutes to four minutes before the fire got too hot and I'll pull it out.

But in doing that, I did design a form that I never had before. It looked like a prehistoric horse's skull. It was interesting. I think it is possible. I think it's just a training thing, if you're aware that you're putting your hand in the fire for a few minutes...

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This page last revised on Sep 21, 2010 20:58 EDT
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