It’s not often the case that architects grow to become household names. But Frank Gehry has never lived by any common practice. The award-winning architect has spent more than a half-century disrupting the very meaning of design within architecture. From the iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (which Philip Johnson called “the greatest building of our time”) to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Gehry has proven time and again the force that’s produced when whimsical design is done masterfully.
Born Frank Owen Goldberg on February 28, 1929, Gehry grew up in Toronto, Canada. Looking back at his early life, it’s prophetic to the work he’d eventually do; at a young age, Gehry built imaginary cities from the things he found in his grandfather’s hardware store. In 1949, he migrated to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture. (It’s here that he changed his name from Goldberg to Gehry.)
He began his career in Los Angeles working for Victor Gruen Associates and Pereira and Luckman. After a brief stint in Paris working with Andre Remondet, he returned to California and started his own firm in 1962. Gehry was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1989. A man with seemingly no limits, there is no bad time to celebrate Gehry’s oeuvre. Below, we highlights 12 of his most striking buildings.
1. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Arguably the most famous building of the past 20 years, the Bilbao Guggenheim was a major event in the history of contemporary architecture. As Paul Goldberger wrote: “The building blazed new trails and became an extraordinary phenomenon. It was one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.” The building went on to generate over $500 million dollars for the local economy, and was even featured in the James Bond film,
2. PETER B. LEWIS BUILDING, CLEVELAND, OHIO
The Peter B. Lewis Building houses the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Stainless steel ribbons frame the brick exterior. Inside, an open floor plan symbolizes—and encourages—cross-disciplinary learning.
3. Chiat/Day Complex, Venice, California
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.
4. Olympic Fish Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain
Like the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Olympic Fish Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain takes its cues from the sea. A steel-metal fish sculpture adorns the top of this building, which was designed for the 1992 Olympic Village. Depending on the angle of the sun and weather conditions, the abstract creature changes colors.