Da Vinci’s Sistine Chapel. The Eiffel Tower. The Great Pyramid of Giza. The Taj Mahal. The Los Angeles skyline at sunset. Few scenes are as breathtaking as these. Critics have solidified the legacy of one such deserving designer and his award winning masterpiece.
A panel of 52 prolific architects and critics selected Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain as the most important piece of architecture in the last two decades. The complete poll and ballots can be viewed in the August issue of Vanity Fair.
The Guggenheim, one of several museums owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, was built near the Nervion River and features both permanent and visiting exhibits by local and international artists. The museum is hailed as one of the most admired works of modern architecture by academics, critics, and the visiting general public alike.
The museum’s exhibitions change frequently and are usually centered around cultural themes in art. The permanent collection, however, highlights installations and electronic forms with few traditional paintings and sculptures throughout the modern landscape.
Gehry’s designs have become tourist attractions all over the world. The Canadian-American Pritzker Prize-winner is perhaps most famous for his titanium-covered works including Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California.
Born in Toronto as Frank Goldberg, his grandmother encouraged him to express himself creatively at a young age. He started his career during his adolescence building miniature cities out of wood scraps. On Saturday mornings, Gehry would spend time in his grandfather’s hardware store. His use of steel, chain link fencing and other metal materials is believed to be inspired by his experiences within the hardware store.
Gehry moved to California in 1947 and began working as a delivery truck driver. During his time off, he studied at Los Angeles City College and went on to graduate from the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture in 1954. Gehry served in the United States Army, Special Services Division following graduation and held several jobs outside of architecture.
In 1952, he married Anita Snyder who convinced him to change his name from Frank Goldberg to Frank Gehry. The decision was made because as a boy, Gehry was teased and beaten for his Jewish heritage. At the time, he and his wife feared the same fate for their children. The two divorced in 1966. In 1975, Gehry married Berta Aguilera, his current wife. Gehry has four children, two daughters and two sons.
The Guggenheim brought Gehry critical success at the age of sixty-eight. Up until that point, Gehry was believed to be a mislead visionary by some critics. He has also been criticized for his work, as some believe that his buildings waste structural resources and are designed without calculating the local climate’s affect on the surrounding environment. Case in point, a tint was added to the Walt Disney Concert Hall after Los Angeles residents complained that neighborhoods south of the titanium structure experienced an increase in temperature due to the sun’s reflection off of the building.
Other Gehry projects that also made the list in Vanity Fair: the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Millennium Park in Chicago and his own Santa Monica home.
In his early 90s, the godfather of modern architecture and designer of the Seagram Building in Manhattan, Phillip Johnson, traveled to Spain shortly after the Guggenheim’s completion. He broke into tears while standing in the atrium and dubbed Gehry “the greatest architect we have today.”
Vanity Fair describes Gehry as “an innovator…[and] the most important architect of our age.”
What do you think?
Written by Ra’Kenna J.