Frank Gehry | Los Angeles Conservancy

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry, 1996. Photo by Gary Leonard, Gary Leonard Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.

Frank Gehry (born 1929)

Frank Gehry was born Frank Goldberg in Toronto in 1929. As a teen, he worked in his grandparents’ hardware store, surrounded by the materials of the building trades such as roofing, fencing, and paint. 
In 1947, his family moved to Los Angeles, where he got a job as a truck driver delivering and installing breakfast nooks. 

At USC, Goldberg studied art under the great ceramist Glen Lukens. Lukens invited him to meet renowned architect Raphael Soriano, who was designing Lukens’ home at the time. Their meeting at the Glen Lukens House is credited with helping to focus the future Gehry’s studies and career in architecture.

After graduating from the USC School of Architecture, Goldberg changed his name to Gehry. He worked for architect Victor Gruen, was drafted into the army, and spent some time at Harvard. He returned to Los Angeles and launched his own practice in 1962. 

Gehry moved in creative circles, cultivating friendships with Ferus Gallery artists including Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, and Ed Moses. 

During the 1970s, the press and architectural community named Gehry and a cadre of other young architects—including Eric Owen Moss, Thomas Mayne, and Craig Hodgetts—members of the “L.A. School.” Gehry and his cohorts experimented with form and material in unconventional applications. 

His use of common building materials like plywood, chain-link fencing, and corrugated metal at the Gemini G.E.L. studios (1979) and his own residence in Santa Monica (1978) bucked preconceived notions of utility and beauty. By the opening of the California Aerospace Museum (1984), this approach was being lauded by the postmodernists.

His work in the 1980s reflected a growing interest in Deconstructivism and ventures into Sculpturalism. His use and development of computer-aided design software for modeling complex forms anticipated the industry’s wider adoption of software for applications outside of drafting.

Gehry’s steady stream of commissions in the Southland made his name synonymous with L.A. architecture. Later commissions in New York, Barcelona, Prague, and Berlin make him, arguably, the best-known practicing architect today. 

After sixteen years of design and construction, Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall opened in downtown Los Angeles in 2003. Just as with his Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the concert hall’s debut was met with critical acclaim from across the world. The building became an instant landmark and has been credited with helping revitalize downtown.

Gehry has been awarded countless accolades for his work, including the AIA Gold Medal, National Medal of Arts, National Design Award, and 1989’s Pritzker Prize, widely considered architecture’s highest honor.

Gehry House
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Gehry House

Starting with a Dutch Colonial Revival and building around it, Gehry would strip much of the interior while adding a new exterior of wood clad in plywood, glass, corrugated metal, and chain-link fencing.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Air and Space Gallery, California Science Center

Architect Frank Gehry's first major public work celebrates California's history in the aviation and aerospace industries with an ingenious use of space and light, an allusion to the challenges of aerospace design.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Gemini G.E.L.

While many of Gehry's designs appear to be as much sculptures as structures, The Gemini G.E.L. (Graphics Editions Limited) building fits squarely into the latter category.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

A testament to Frank Gehry's passion for utilitarian material, The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is dominated by chain link used to create a set of three-dimensional objects extending vertically and obliquely from the center of the complex.
Loyola Law School
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Loyola Law School

Little known at the time and having never designed a campus, Frank Gehry drew on classical settings like the Roman Forum to visually evoke the history and weight of the legal profession.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Norton Residence

Even among all of Venice's famed Ocean Front Walk beachfront architecture, no other house is as eye-catching as the Norton Residence.
Indiana Avenue Houses/Arnoldi Triplex
Photo by Larry Underhill

Indiana Avenue Houses/Arnoldi Triplex

The Deconstructivist triplex design features separate, loft-like, two-story units which the architects dubbed "the three little pigs," one in stucco, one in plywood, and one covered head to toe in green asphalt roof shingles.
Photo by Jessica Hodgdon/L.A. Conservancy

Wells Fargo

A deconstructed version of a building looking at first more like a drawing of a building than the thing itself, Gehry's design fragments the building into separate parts that play with light, shadow, and reflection.
Danziger Studio
Photo by Devri Richmond

Danziger Studio

Before the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Disney Concert Hall, a lesser-known Frank Gehry crafted a work--live-play paradise for graphic artist Lou Danziger on Melrose Avenue.