Monday, Apr. 26, 2004

Frank Gehry

Daniel Libeskind makes glass and steel thunderbolts. Zaha Hadid goes in for tilting thrusts. Lately Norman Foster is doing armored towers. Among the world's most prominent architects, no one's work looks much like anyone else's. No one presumes to be handing down, like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once did, the chief forms from which all others are supposed to flow.

But with the singular spectacle of his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain—all that glistening titanium, those war-whooping arabesques—Frank Gehry in 1997 undid everyone's idea of what a building looks like. Ever since, his greatest influence has been this: he has profoundly reordered the idea of constructed space among people who don't think about buildings for a living but who work in them, live in them—and pay for them. Because of Gehry, the people who commission buildings are now happy to be offered designs that sign the air in radically different ways. Angled cantilevers, S-curved walls, no obvious symmetries? No problem. "The message I hope to have sent," he says, "is just the example of being yourself. I tell this to my students: it's not about copying me or my logic systems. It's about allowing yourself to be yourself."

From the Archive
The Art of Warp: Frank Gehry's hometown masterpiece had a difficult birth. But it should have a brilliant life