Frank Gehry: Architect Cheat Sheet |
Architect Cheat Sheet: Who was Frank Gehry?

Architect Cheat Sheet: Who was Frank Gehry?

Canadian-American architect known for postmodern designs

Cissy Wang
Written by –
Cissy Wang
on September 4th 2019
Cissy is a fresh graduate from CUHK with a major in English and Comparative Literature. Her writing gears towards the poetics of space in social, cultural and urban spaces. "In libris libertas" has always been her motto.

People ask me if I’m an artist or an architect. But I think they’re the same. — Frank Gehry, in Toronto Star 4 September 1987


As one of the most prominent American architects and designers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Canadian-born American architect established his worldwide renown for his audacious architectural philosophy and his innovative explorations of materials and structures.

Frank Gehry, Canadian-born American architect |
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Gehry has specialized in using ordinary materials such as chain link fencing, cardboard, and corrugated metal in unorthodox ways, which led him to be grouped with the deconstructionist movement in architecture — a post-structuralist aesthetic that challenges accepted design paradigms of architecture while breaking with the modernist ideal of form following function。

Spotlight on Frank Gehry

Early Life

Frank Gehry the architect |
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Frank Gehry was born Frank Owen Goldberg on February 28, 1929, in Toronto, Canada. The Goldberg family was Polish and Jewish. Frank was creative at a young age, building imaginary homes and cities from items found in his grandfather’s hardware store. This interest in unconventional building materials would come to characterize Gehry’s architectural work.

Architectural Career

Gehry relocated to Los Angeles in 1949, holding a variety of jobs while attending college. He would eventually graduate from the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture. It was during his time that he changed his Goldberg surname to Gehry, in an effort to preclude anti-Semitism. In 1956, Gehry moved to Massachusetts with his wife, Anita Snyder, to enroll at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He later dropped out of Harvard and divorced his wife, with whom he had two daughters. In 1975, Gehry married Berta Isabel Aguilera, and had two more children.

Architect Frank Gehry with his latest creation, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, in Las Vegas. Isaac Brekken |
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After leaving Harvard, Frank Gehry returned to California, making a name for himself with the launch of his “Easy Edges” cardboard furniture line. The Easy Edges pieces, crafted from layers of corrugated cardboard, sold between 1969 and 1973.

Key Projects

Discover these amazing buildings devised by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect over the past five decades.

The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic, 1996

Frank Gehry: The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic, 1996 |
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The Prague offices of the Dutch insurance company Nationale-Nederlanden is also known as Fred and Ginger, thanks to its signature pair of towers, which seem to resemble a couple dancing. The 1996 building, comprising a cinched volume of metal mesh and glass and a concrete cylinder, was a collaboration between Gehry and local architect Vlado Miluníc.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California, 2003

Frank Gehry: Walt Disney Concert Hall, California, USA, 2003 |
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Gehry was shortlisted to devise a new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1988; the project, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, finally opened in 2003. Today critics and the public agree that the iconic building was worth the wait. Reflecting Gehry’s longtime passion for sailing, the structure’s exterior features expanses of stainless steel that billow above Grand Avenue, while inside, similarly shaped panels of Douglas fir line the auditorium.

Vitra Design Museum building, Weil am Rhein, Germany, 2006

Frank Gehry: Vitra Design Museum building, rear view, Weil am Rhein, Germany, 2006 |
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The 1991 Venice, California, complex that Gehry built for advertising agency Chiat/Day commonly goes by the nickname Binoculars Building, thanks to the enormous pair of binoculars that mark the entrance to a parking garage—a collaboration between Gehry and artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Office structures resembling a ship’s prow and tree trunks flank the sculpture, which now welcomes 500 Google employees to work every day.

The IAC Building, New York, USA, 2007

Frank Gehry: The IAC Building, New York, USA, 2007 |
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Gehry realized his first Manhattan building in 2007, with the completion of the InterActiveCorp headquarters in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood. The nine-story edifice was also his first major glass building, and crews bent that material on site to capture the swelling effects in his sailboat-like design.

Opus Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2012

Frank Gehry: Opus Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2012 |
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Anchored against the sublime hillside, OPUS HONG KONG draws its inspiration from the breathtaking scenery surrounding the site. “I thought the building in such a beautiful spot should have an organic feel to it,” says Gehry. Finely tuned glass-enclosed columns form the structure, twisting up around the building like reeds swaying in the breeze. “It gives a delicacy to the façade,” Gehry adds.


“I designed the building for Hong Kong, to respond to the unique conditions of the city. You wouldn’t build this anywhere else.” — Frank Gehry

Later Life

In recent years, Gehry has served as a professor of architecture at Columbia University, Yale and the University of Southern California. He has also served as a board member at USC’s School of Architecture, his alma mater. Among his many official honors, Gehry was the 1989 recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Prize—an annual award honoring a living architect “whose built work demonstrates combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”

Frank Gehry the architect |
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In 2016, Gehry was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

What do you think of Frank Gehry’s work?


If you’re interested in reading more about our featured architects, check out the tag Architect Cheat Sheet to see more. We also have a host of brilliant artist interviews with fascinating artists, illustrators and designers. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep in touch.


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