At 94 years old, Frank Gehry has this physical status:
Gehry returned to Los Angeles to work for Victor Gruen Associates, with whom he had apprenticed while at USC. In 1957, at age 28, he was given the chance to design his first private residence with friend and old classmate Greg Walsh. Construction was done by another neighbor across the street from his wife's family, Charlie Sockler. Built in Idyllwild, California for his wife Anita's family neighbor Melvin David, the over 2,000 sq ft (190 m2) "David Cabin" shows features that were to become synonymous with Gehry's later work, including beams protruding from the exterior sides, vertical-grain douglas fir detail, and exposed unfinished ceiling beams. It also shows strong Asian influences, stemming from his earliest inspirations, such as the Shosoin Treasure House in Nara, Japan.
In 1961, Gehry moved to Paris, where he worked for architect Andre Remondet. In 1962, he established a practice in Los Angeles that became Frank Gehry and Associates in 1967, then Gehry Partners in 2001. His earliest commissions were in Southern California, where he designed a number of innovative commercial structures such as Santa Monica Place (1980) and residential buildings such as the eccentric Norton House (1984) in Venice, California.
Among these works, Gehry's most notable design may be the renovation of his own Santa Monica residence. Originally built in 1920 and purchased by Gehry in 1977, it features a metallic exterior wrapped around the original building that leaves many of the original details visible. Gehry still resides there.
Other of Gehry's buildings completed during the 1980s include the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (1981) in San Pedro, and the California Aerospace Museum (1984) at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.
In 1989, Gehry received the Pritzker Architecture Prize, where the jury described him: "Always open to experimentation, he has as well a sureness and maturity that resists, in the same way that Picasso did, being bound either by critical acceptance or his successes. His buildings are juxtaposed collages of spaces and materials that make users appreciative of both the theatre and the back-stage, simultaneously revealed."
Gehry continued to design other notable buildings in California, such as the Chiat/Day Building (1991) in Venice, in collaboration with Claes Oldenburg, which is well known for its massive sculpture of binoculars. He also began receiving larger national and international commissions, including his first European commission, the Vitra International Furniture Manufacturing Facility and Design Museum in Germany, completed in 1989. It was soon followed by other major commissions including the Frederick Weisman Museum of Art (1993) in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Cinémathèque Française (1994) in Paris; and the Dancing House (1996) in Prague.
From 1994 to 1996 a couple buildings by Gehry for a Public housing project were realized in Goldstein, part of Frankfurt-Schwanheim (1994) In 1997, Gehry vaulted to a new level of international acclaim when the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened in Bilbao, Spain. Hailed by The New Yorker as a "masterpiece of the 20th century", and by legendary architect Philip Johnson as "the greatest building of our time", the museum became famous for its striking yet aesthetically pleasing design and its positive economic effect on the city.
Since then, Gehry has regularly won major commissions and established himself as one of the world's most notable architects. His best-received works include several concert halls for classical music. The boisterous, curvaceous Walt Disney Concert Hall (2003) in downtown Los Angeles is the centerpiece of the neighborhood's revitalization; the Los Angeles Times called it "the most effective answer to doubters, naysayers, and grumbling critics an American architect has ever produced". Gehry also designed the open-air Jay Pritzker Pavilion (2004) in Chicago's Millennium Park; and the understated New World Center (2011) in Miami Beach, which the LA Times called "a piece of architecture that dares you to underestimate it or write it off at first glance."
His other notable works include academic buildings such as the Stata Center (2004) at MIT, and the Peter B. Lewis Library (2008) at Princeton University; museums such as the Museum of Pop Culture (2000) in Seattle, Washington; commercial buildings such as the IAC Building (2007) in New York City; and residential buildings, such as Gehry's first skyscraper, the Beekman Tower at 8 Spruce Street (2011) in New York City.
Gehry's recent major international works include the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology Sydney, completed in 2014, and the Chau Chak Wing, with its 320,000 bricks in "sweeping lines", described as "10 out of 10" on a scale of difficulty. An ongoing project is the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates. Other significant projects such as the Mirvish Towers in Toronto, and a multi-decade renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, are currently in the design stage. In October 2013, Gehry was appointed joint architect with Foster + Partners to design the High Street phase of the development of Battersea Power Station in London, Gehry's first project there.
In recent years, some of Gehry's more prominent designs have failed to go forward. In addition to unrealized designs for the Corcoran Art Gallery expansion in Washington, DC, and a new Guggenheim museum near the South Street Seaport in New York City, Gehry was notoriously dropped by developer Bruce Ratner from the Pacific Park (Brooklyn) redevelopment project, and in 2014 as the designer of the World Trade Center Performing Arts Center in New York City. Some stalled projects have recently shown progress: After many years and a dismissal, Gehry was recently reinstated as architect for the Grand Avenue Project in Los Angeles, and though his controversial design of the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC has had numerous delays during the approval process with the United States Congress, it was finally approved in 2014 with a modified design.
In 2014, two significant, long-awaited museums designed by Gehry opened: the Biomuseo, a biodiversity museum in Panama City, Panama; and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a modern art museum in the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris, France, which opened to some rave reviews.
Also in 2014, Gehry was commissioned by River LA (formerly the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation), a nonprofit group founded by the city of Los Angeles in 2009 to coordinate river policy, to devise a wide-ranging new plan for the river.
In February 2015, the new AU$180 million building for the University of Technology Sydney was officially opened, whose façade has more than 320,000 hand-placed bricks and glass slabs. Gehry said he would not design a building like the "crumpled paper bag" again.
Gehry told the French newspaper La Croix in November 2016 that President of France François Hollande had assured him he could relocate to France if Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. The following month, Gehry said that he had no plans to move. Trump and he exchanged words in 2010 when Gehry's 8 Spruce Street, originally known as Beekman Tower, was built 1 foot (0.30 m) taller than the nearby Trump Building, which until then was New York City's tallest residential building.
Notable Gehry-designed buildings completed in the 2020s include the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, DC and the LUMA Arles museum in France. In 2021, noting Gehry's progress on an increasing number of significant projects in his hometown, including the Grand Avenue Project, a concert hall for the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, and an office building for Warner Bros., The Architect's Newspaper stated that "Seventy-four years after he moved there from his native Toronto, L.A. is looking more and more like Gehry Country."
Other aspects of career
In January 2011, Gehry joined the University of Southern California (USC) faculty, as the Judge Widney Professor of Architecture. He has since continued in this role at his alma mater. He has also held teaching positions at Harvard University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Toronto, Columbia University, the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and at Yale University, where he still teaches as of 2017.
Though he is often referred to as a "starchitect", he has repeatedly expressed his disdain for the term, insisting he is only an architect. Steve Sample, President of the University of Southern California, told Gehry that "...After George Lucas, you are our most prominent graduate".
As of December 2013, Gehry has received over a dozen honorary university degrees (see #Honorary doctorates).
In February 2017, MasterClass announced an online architecture course taught by Gehry that was released that July.
Gehry has been involved in exhibition designs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art dating back to the 1960s. In 1965, Gehry designed the exhibition display for the "Art Treasures of Japan" exhibition at the LACMA. This was followed soon after by the exhibition design for the "Assyrian Reliefs" show in 1966 and the "Billy Al Bengston Retrospective" in 1968. The LACMA then had Gehry design the installation for the "Treasures of Tutankhamen" exhibition in 1978 followed by the "Avant-Garde in Russia 1910–1930" exhibition in 1980. The subsequent year, Gehry designed the exhibition for "Seventeen Artists in the '60s" at the LACMA, followed soon after by the "German Expressionist Sculpture Exhibition" in 1983. In 1991–92, Gehry designed the installation of the landmark exhibition "Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany", which opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and the Altes Museum in Berlin. Gehry was asked to design an exhibition on the work of Alexander Calder at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Resnick Pavilion, again invited by the museum's curator Stephanie Barron. The exhibition began on November 24, 2013, and ran through July 27, 2014.
In addition to his long-standing involvement with exhibition design at the LACMA, Gehry has also designed numerous exhibition installations with other institutions. In 1998, "The Art of the Motorcycle" exhibition opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum with its installation designed by Gehry. This exhibition subsequently traveled to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Guggenheim Las Vegas.
In 2014, he curated an exhibition of photography by his close friend and businessman Peter Arnell that ran from March 5 through April 1 at Milk Studios Gallery in Los Angeles.
In 1983, Gehry created the stage design for Lucinda Childs' dance Available Light, set to music by John Adams. It premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles at the "Temporary Contemporary", and was subsequently seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House in New York City and the Theatre de la Ville in Paris. The set consisted of two levels angled in relation to each other, with a chain-link backdrop. The piece was revived in 2015, and was performed, among other places, in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, where it was presented by FringeArts, which commissioned the revival.
In 2012, Gehry designed the set for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's opera production of Don Giovanni, performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
In April 2014, Gehry designed a set for an "exploration of the life and career of Pierre Boulez" by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which was performed in November of that year.
In addition to architecture, Gehry has made a line of furniture, jewelry for Tiffany & Co., various household items, sculptures, and even a glass bottle for Wyborowa Vodka. His first line of furniture, produced from 1969 to 1973, was called "Easy Edges", constructed out of cardboard. Another line of furniture released in the spring of 1992 is "Bentwood Furniture". Each piece is named after a different hockey term. He was first introduced to making furniture in 1954 while serving in the U.S. Army, where he designed furniture for the enlisted soldiers.
In many of his designs, Gehry is inspired by fish. "It was by accident I got into the fish image", claimed Gehry. One thing that sparked his interest in fish was the fact that his colleagues were recreating Greek temples. He said, "Three hundred million years before man was fish....if you gotta go back, and you're insecure about going forward...go back three hundred million years ago. Why are you stopping at the Greeks? So, I started drawing fish in my sketchbook, and then I started to realize that there was something in it."
As a result of his fascination, the first Fish Lamps were fabricated between 1984 and 1986. They employed wire armatures molded into fish shapes, onto which shards of plastic laminate ColorCore are individually glued. Since the creation of the first lamp in 1984, the fish has become a recurrent motif in Gehry's work, most notably in the Fish Sculpture at La Vila Olímpica del Poblenou in Barcelona (1989–92) and Standing Glass Fish for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (1986).
Gehry has previously collaborated with luxury jewelry company Tiffany & Co., creating six distinct jewelry collections: the Orchid, Fish, Torque, Equus, Axis, and Fold collections. In addition to jewelry, Gehry designed other items, including a distinctive collector's chess set and a series of tableware items, including vases, cups, and bowls for the company.
In 2004, Gehry designed the official trophy for the World Cup of Hockey. He redesigned the trophy for the next tournament in 2016.
He has collaborated with American furniture manufacturer Emeco on designs such as the 2004 "Superlight" chair.
In 2014, Gehry was one of the six "iconoclasts" selected by French fashion house Louis Vuitton to design a piece using their iconic monogram pattern as part of their "Celebrating Monogram" campaign.
In 2015, Gehry designed his first yacht.
In 2020, Gehry designed a limited edition bottle of Hennessy cognac.
Gehry's firm was responsible for innovation in architectural software. His firm spun off another firm called Gehry Technologies that was established in 2002. In 2005, Gehry Technologies began a partnership with Dassault Systèmes to bring innovations from the aerospace and manufacturing world to AEC and developed Digital Project software, as well as GTeam software. In 2014, Gehry Technologies was acquired by software company Trimble Navigation. Its client list includes Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Coop Himmelb(l)au, and Zaha Hadid.
- 1987: Fellow of American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 1988: Elected into the National Academy of Design
- 1989: Pritzker Architecture Prize
- 1992: Praemium Imperiale
- 1994: The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize
- 1995: American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award
- 1998: National Medal of Arts
- 1998: Gold Medal Award, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
- 1999: AIA Gold Medal, American Institute of Architects
- 2000: Cooper–Hewitt National Design Award Lifetime Achievement
- 2002: Companion of the Order of Canada
- 2004: Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service
- 2006: Inductee, California Hall of Fame
- 2007: Henry C. Turner Prize for Innovation in Construction Technology from the National Building Museum (on behalf of Gehry Partners and Gehry Technologies)
- 2009: Order of Charlemagne
- 2012: Twenty-five Year Award, American Institute of Architects
- 2014: Prince of Asturias Award
- 2014: Commandeur of the Ordre National de la Légion d'honneur, France
- 2015: J. Paul Getty Medal
- 2016: Harvard Arts Medal
- 2016: Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts, Foundation for Arts and Preservation in Embassies
- 2016: Presidential Medal of Freedom
- 2018: Neutra Medal
- 2019: Inductee, Canada's Walk of Fame
- 2020: Paez Medal of Art, New York City (VAEA).