Frank Gehry, Architect

Frank Gehry, Architect


Retrospective Features Models, Plans, Drawings, Furniture, Photographs, and Video Footage, as well as Two Site-Specific Architectural Elements

Frank Gehry, Architect, the most comprehensive exhibition of Frank Gehry's work to date, opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on May 18, and remains on view through September 4, 2001. This full-museum retrospective presents approximately 40 of the architect's most significant projects and commissions, from early residential designs and furniture to his most recent public buildings worldwide. The exhibition explores the origins and continued development of Gehry's unique vocabulary through drawings, plans, models, furniture designs, photographs, video footage, and the installation itself, providing a context with which to view the Los Angeles-based architect's extraordinary contributions to the field of architecture and design.

The exhibition is sponsored by ENRON and HUGO BOSS.
Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
In-kind support is provided by A. Zahner Company, Dassault Systèmes, IBM, SGI, Knoll Inc, and Vitra.

"Frank Gehry has raised the bar for architectural innovation," said Thomas Krens, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. "He has accomplished this because of his openness to the concept of difference and radical juxtaposition. Place two unlikely elements together and Frank will say, 'Why not?' He is a master at transforming the material environment—whether natural or artificial—into architecture."

"The uniqueness of Frank Gehry's work is the blending of the functional with the artistic to create an innovative product," said Jeff Skilling, Enron President and CEO. "This is a quality Enron relates to every day as we question traditional business assumptions and embrace innovative solutions. We are pleased to help showcase Frank Gehry's genius."

"Frank Gehry is indisputably one of the greatest architects of our time," said Werner Baldessarini, Chairman and CEO, Hugo Boss AG. "His hallmark use of materials, organic shapes, and interlocking structures has already become legendary. It is an honor for us to support this outstanding exhibition." The exhibition has been organized by Mildred Friedman, guest curator, and J. Fiona Ragheb, Associate Curator for Collections and Exhibitions, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The exhibition installation is designed by Frank O. Gehry & Associates, who worked in collaboration with Bruce Mau Design.

Frank Gehry, Architect fills the Frank Lloyd Wright Rotunda as well as Tower galleries 5 and 7. The exhibition provides an overview of Gehry's career and organizes the architect's most important projects so as to highlight key moments that have informed the development of his architectural vocabulary. The variety of building types represented—including residential designs, institutional projects, performing arts facilities, and commercial properties—illustrates the ease with which Gehry's vocabulary adapts to both building program and context. Seminal projects featured in the exhibition include: the renovation of the architect's own home in Santa Monica, California (1977–1978, 1991–1992); Loyola Law School, Los Angeles (1978–present); the Winton Guest House, Wayzata, Minnesota (1983–87); the Chiat/Day Building, Venice, California (1985–91); the Vitra International Manufacturing Facility and Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany (1987–89); the Lewis Residence, Lyndhurst, Ohio (1987–95); the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles (1987–present); Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (1991–97); and the DG Bank at Pariser Platz, Berlin (1995–2001), among others. These projects are set against a backdrop of large-scale backlit photographs which, seen in their totality, create a filmstrip-like effect that unwinds along the museum's ramps to create a visual narrative of the architect's career.

For the exhibition, the architect and his firm, Frank O. Gehry & Associates, have created a spectacular architectural intervention in the Frank Lloyd Wright Rotunda. Suspended from the ribs of the skylight are huge swaths of aluminum mesh, which drape down and are tied back onto the lower ramps. The aluminum mesh—a kind of refined chain link—both recalls the architect's early vocabulary and reflects the formal direction of his current work. A second site-specific architectural element is a titanium-clad canopy above the sculpture terrace off Tower 5. The canopy extends over an outdoor café, which has been created especially for this exhibition. The undulating forms of this structure recall those used to create the façade of a hotel at Marques de Riscal (1998–present), a winery in Elciego, Spain, and dramatically mediate between the robust curves of the Frank Lloyd Wright building and the rectilinear vocabulary of the Gwathmey Siegel tower. This special installation provides a first-hand opportunity for visitors to experience Gehry's designs on a built scale.

The ramps begin with early residential projects interspersed with commercial and institutional work, all of which were integral to the development of Gehry's subsequent vocabulary and to his approach to the definition of space. The early residential designs include the 1977–78 transformation of his own home in Santa Monica, in which he used chain-link fencing, asphalt flooring, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal to effectively build a house around an existing house; the unbuilt Familian Residence (1978), which hints at the quality of arrested motion that Gehry so successful executes in later projects; and the Winton Guest House in Wayzata, Minnesota (1983–87), a cluster of rectangular, square, wedge, and cone-shaped buildings. Gehry's interest in creating a sense of place and his approach to the workspace are evident in his campus for Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, a project that Gehry began in 1978 and remains on going, and the Chiat/Day Building in Venice, California (1985–91).

A palpable shift in Gehry's aesthetic began to occur in his design for the Vitra International Manufacturing Facility and Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany (1987–89), Gehry's first European commission. This design, and that of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (1990–93), initiated a transition as Gehry pushed beyond the confines of conventional rectilinear building vocabularies toward more boldly sculptural forms. The construction of these new forms presented increasingly technical complexities, and required a computerized solution. Beginning with the monumental Fish Sculpture at Vila Olimpica in Barcelona, Spain (1989–92), the firm began to use CATIA (computer aided three-dimensional interactive application). CATIA, which was originally developed for the French aerospace industry, has enabled the translation of Gehry's fluid sketches and models into built works and the realization of ambitious designs within established project parameters.

One of Gehry's most dramatic formal breakthroughs was in the design for the unbuilt Lewis Residence (1989–95), which spawned a number of design innovations. Though it began as a cluster of relatively conventional forms and motifs organized around a central court, the design became more elaborate and fantastic over time. An increasingly sculptural and organic vocabulary emerged during the design process, including Gehry's signature horse head, which reappeared in his design for the DG Bank Building, Berlin (1995–2001).

In recent years, Gehry has been awarded the large-scale cultural projects that have come to define his career. The unconventional impulse behind the architect's forms makes them especially suited to buildings devoted to artistic creativity, with each design inspired by the character of the particular institution. The last ramp of the exhibition explores these projects, including the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (1991–97); Experience Music Project in Seattle (1995–2000); and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1987–present). Audiences are drawn as much by the arresting forms of these buildings as by the cultural institutions housed in them. This phenomenon is perhaps most apparent in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which has drawn millions of visitors to the Spanish city and has brought Gehry international renown.

Gehry's longstanding concern with context and scale is also explored in several current projects. The varied strategies that Gehry deploys to achieve a dialogue between his buildings and their environments are visible in such diverse designs as his Ustra Office Building in Hannover, Germany (1995–present); the Millennium Park Music Pavilion and Great Lawn in Chicago, Illinois (1999–present); and the Hotel at Marques de Riscal in northern Spain (1998–present).

The Tower galleries are dedicated to specific aspects of the architect's work. Tower 5 focuses on Gehry's experiments with furniture design, which have been complementary to his architectural endeavors. This includes his celebrated Easy Edges and Experimental Edges cardboard furniture (1969–73 and 1979–82), Bent Wood furniture (1989–92), and his series of playful Fish and Snake Lamps (1983–86) made from Colorcore, a translucent plastic laminate. His most recent furniture designs, the FOG chairs and tables created for Knoll, are located just outside Tower 5 on the sculpture terrace and are part of the outdoor café.

The installation in Tower 7 recreates Gehry's studio, and includes a detailed examination of his unique working method. This section of the exhibition traces a single project—the Ray and Maria Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1998–present)—from inception to the early construction phase, revealing the intricacies of Gehry's design process in a series of programmatic and process models. This installation also highlights Gehry's use of technology in the design construction process through CATIA model development sequences.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Frank Gehry moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1947, at the age of 17. Gehry received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Southern California in 1954, studied City Planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and opened his first office in Los Angeles in 1962. His work has earned several of the most significant awards in the architectural field, including: the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1977); the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1989); the Praemium Imperiale Award by the Japan Art Association (1992); the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award for lifetime contribution to the arts (1994); the National Medal of Arts (1998) the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1999); the Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (2000); and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Americans for the Arts (2000).

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Edited by J. Fiona Ragheb, the catalogue features a preface by Thomas Krens, an introduction by Mildred Friedman, and essays by Jean-Louis Cohen, Director of the Insitut Français d'Architecture, Paris, and the Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Beatriz Colomina, Associate Professor, History and Theory of Architecture, Princeton University; William J. Mitchell, Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences, and Dean, School of Architecture and Planning, MIT; and J. Fiona Ragheb. The catalogue is designed by Bruce Mau Design. Softcover is available for $45.00. The hardcover edition is distributed to the trade by Harry N. Abrams Inc., and is available for $85.00.

The following programs are held at the Guggenheim Museum and are free with museum admission, unless otherwise noted. For updated information regarding ticketed programs, contact the Box Office at (212) 423-3587, or at

Daily Tours: Frank Gehry, Architect, from May 27 to September 4, Sundays through Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm. Tour times are subject to change. For daily schedules, confirm with the admissions desk.

A Curatorial Eye: On May 25, June 8, and June 29, at 2:00 pm, exhibition curators will provide guided tours of the exhibition.

Audio Tour: The audio tour for Frank Gehry, Architect is produced by Acoustiguide and features comments by Frank Gehry and Philip Johnson.

Lectures take place in the Peter B. Lewis Theater of The Sackler Center for Arts Education, unless otherwise noted. $10 ($7 for members, seniors, and students).

Lecture Series: Perspectives on Frank Gehry
This series of lectures features prominent historians, artists, writers and scholars who discuss multiple viewpoints on the work of this noted architect.

Billy Al Bengston
Monday, May 21, at 7:00 pm

Warped Space: Architecture and the Digital Revolution
Anthony Vidler, Tuesday, May 22, at 7:30 pm

Modern Furnishings by Architects, from Mies to Gehry. . . Why?
Albert Pfeiffer, Tuesday, July 10, at 7:00 pm

Lecture Series: Between Architecture and Art
This series explores the increasingly hybrid terrain between architecture and the visual arts by bringing architects and artists together in discussion.

This program is supported by Fujitsu.

Architecture and the Biological Landscape
Inigo Manglaño-Ovalle and Greg Lynn, Tuesday, June 5, at 7:00 pm

Architecture and the Everyday
Marjetica Potrc and LOT/EK, Tuesday, June 12, at 7:00 pm.

Architecture and the Virtual Space
Vito Acconci and Hani Rashid, Tuesday, July 17, at 7:00 pm

Family Workshops
On June 10, July 15, and July 21, at 1:00 pm, the museum will offer Family Workshops.
Unless otherwise noted, enrollment is limited to 20 children (ages 7–12). Preregistration is required; call (212) 423-3587. $10 for one child, plus one free adult ($7 for members' children); $7 per additional child or adult.

Family Activity Guide
A free, full-color family activity guide accompanying Frank Gehry, Architect is available for children and their adult companions to use as they view the exhibition.
Sponsored by Target Stores

Guggenheim and CityPass Program
CityPass, a visitor program which offers admission to six of New York's most celebrated cultural attractions for a discounted package price, now features the Guggenheim Museum, and may be purchased at the Guggenheim. $34 for adults, $25 for seniors, $24 for ages 12–17.

Admission and Museum Hours
Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Tickets are available through The museum is open Sunday to Wednesday, 9 am to 6 pm, and Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The museum is closed on Thursday.

May 15, 2001

For Press Information: Betsy Ennis/Sasha Nicholas
Department of Public Affairs
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Telephone: (212) 423-3840
Telefax: (212) 423-3787
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