Metal-Mesh Sculpture

Installation view of metal-mesh sculpture designed by Frank O. Gehry & Associates for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on the occasion of Frank Gehry, Architect, May 18–August 26, 2001. Photo by Ellen Labenski.

 Frank Gehry Architect
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In 1962, when Frank Gehry began his own architectural practice in Santa Monica, California, he was still coming to terms with the Modernist tradition in which he had been trained and the character of the metropolitan Los Angeles area where he was based. Yet by the next decade, his inimitable aesthetic had begun to emerge in projects that involved a complete rethinking of the architectural box and were marked by a striking approach to the enclosure of space. The synergy between Gehry's architecture and the urban vernacular of Los Angeles would take longer to develop, but it eventually flourished in designs that were animated by the urban complexity on which they drew.

Design Model for Guggenheim Museum

Current design model for the Guggenheim Museum New York, 2000. Photo by Ellen Labenski.

From the beginning, the architect's use of unorthodox materials, such as chain link and corrugated metal, earned him a reputation as an iconoclast. Stemming from his interest in both the expressive potential of materials and the work of the many contemporary artists who are his friends and collaborators, Gehry's unique architectural vocabulary lends his buildings a pronounced sense of power and movement. His humble aesthetic, together with an idiosyncratic approach to form, exemplifies a sensibility that melds architecture and sculpture in exuberant buildings. With each successive commission, he has succeeded in forging new ground in his ongoing negotiation of functional architecture and sculptural form.

This exhibition provides a career-long perspective on the architect's work through the presentation of 40 projects, and it reveals a unique design process that begins with fluid sketches and simple building blocks. Rarely content with the initial solution, Gehry approaches architecture as an evolving and collaborative process using models as three-dimensional sketches to explore the myriad design possibilities inherent to a given building program. In recent years, the computer technologies used for design and manufacturing applications by his firm have facilitated the realization—on an ambitious new scale—of the gestural quality he has long prized. His continued penchant for reinventing materials has likewise reached new heights of achievement in his use of glass, steel, and titanium. The remarkable successes of Gehry's latest projects have catapulted him to a level of prominence enjoyed by few architects, and today he is recognized as one of the most inventive and pioneering architects of our time.