13 Iconic Buildings Designed by Frank Gehry

By Byron Loker / Published by Dwell
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Frank Gehry's recognizable designs are often cited as being among the most important works of contemporary architecture.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Gehry was a creative child. Encouraged by his grandmother, he would build little cities out of scraps of wood from her husband's hardware store. His buildings consist of juxtaposed collages of spaces and materials that make people appreciate both the theater and backstage simultaneously.

A winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize—considered one of the world's premier architecture awards—Gehry was commended by the jury as, "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."

Here is a selection of some of Gehry's most remarkable creations, starting with perhaps the most notable of his career—the 1978 renovation of his own Santa Monica, California residence, where he still lives.  

Originally built in 1920 and purchased by Gehry in 1977, the Gehry House features a metallic exterior wrapped around the original building that leaves many of the original details visible. In 2012, it won the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious Twenty-Five Year Award.

Originally built in 1920 and purchased by Gehry in 1977, the Gehry House features a metallic exterior wrapped around the original building that leaves many of the original details visible. In 2012, it won the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious Twenty-Five Year Award.

Photo courtesy Gehry Partners, LLP: Rizzoli

Gehry Tower in Hanover, Germany

Gehry Tower is a nine-story building that was commissioned by the city-owned Hanover Transport Services (üstra), for whom Gehry also designed a bus stop in the city.

Constructed of stainless steel, the Gehry Tower is memorable for the noticeable twist in its outer façade on a ferroconcrete core, making optimal use of the relatively small piece of ground on which it is located. Like many of Gehry's buildings, the tower was created with the most modern technology available at the time.

Constructed of stainless steel, the Gehry Tower is memorable for the noticeable twist in its outer façade on a ferroconcrete core, making optimal use of the relatively small piece of ground on which it is located. Like many of Gehry's buildings, the tower was created with the most modern technology available at the time.

Photo by Christian A. Schröder

Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles

A trip to Los Angeles isn’t complete without visiting Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the city's premier cultural destinations. Whether it's the majesty of the architecture, the purity of the sound or the beauty of its public garden, Walt Disney Concert Hall has become one of the symbols of Los Angeles.

Walt Disney Concert Hall has received wide acclaim for its excellent acoustics and distinctive architecture. In the decade since its opening, the hall's sweeping, metallic surfaces have become associated with Frank Gehry’s signature style.

Walt Disney Concert Hall has received wide acclaim for its excellent acoustics and distinctive architecture. In the decade since its opening, the hall's sweeping, metallic surfaces have become associated with Frank Gehry’s signature style.

Photo Matthew Momberger / Flickr

Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis

Opened in 1993, the Weisman Art Museum was expanded in 2011, with an addition also designed by Gehry that creates a seamless and fluid visitor experience.

Representing Frank Gehry’s first museum built from the ground-up, the Weisman Art Museum is located on the banks of the Mississippi River on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. Affectionately known as the "Baby Bilbao," a reference to the later Guggenheim’s iconic museum in Spain, the Weisman’s organic curves of stainless steel were designed without the aid of computer software, predating a process Gehry would later innovate through his use of CATIA modeling software. 

Representing Frank Gehry’s first museum built from the ground-up, the Weisman Art Museum is located on the banks of the Mississippi River on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. Affectionately known as the "Baby Bilbao," a reference to the later Guggenheim’s iconic museum in Spain, the Weisman’s organic curves of stainless steel were designed without the aid of computer software, predating a process Gehry would later innovate through his use of CATIA modeling software. 

Photo courtesy Mapio.net

Peter B. Lewis Building in Cleveland, Ohio

Since its construction in 2002, the Peter B. Lewis Building has housed the Weatherhead School of Management at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University. The building exterior is classic Gehry, with ribbons of stainless steel unfurling from a brick base. The open interior is meant to encourage cross-disciplinary socializing.

Named after Peter B. Lewis, chief executive and president of Progressive Insurance, Gehry's building in the Case Western Reserve campus was a $62 million project with 152,000 square feet of space. Lewis and Gehry have had a long professional and personal career dating back to Lewis' commissioning Gehry to design his home, which was never built.  

Named after Peter B. Lewis, chief executive and president of Progressive Insurance, Gehry's building in the Case Western Reserve campus was a $62 million project with 152,000 square feet of space. Lewis and Gehry have had a long professional and personal career dating back to Lewis' commissioning Gehry to design his home, which was never built.  

Photo by Yuanshuai Si / Flickr

Stata Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge

The Ray and Maria Stata Center, or Building 32, is a 720,000-square-foot academic complex at MIT. Academic celebrities such as Noam Chomsky and Ron Rivest, World Wide Web Consortium founder Tim Berners-Lee, and free software movement founder Richard Stallman have offices in the building.

In a  glowing appraisal of Gehry's Stata Center, Boston Globe architecture columnist Robert Campbell wrote: "The Stata is always going to look unfinished. It also looks as if it's about to collapse. Columns tilt at scary angles. Walls teeter, swerve, and collide in random curves and angles. Materials change wherever you look: brick, mirror-surface steel, brushed aluminum, brightly colored paint, corrugated metal. Everything looks improvised, as if thrown up at the last moment. That's the point."  

In a glowing appraisal of Gehry's Stata Center, Boston Globe architecture columnist Robert Campbell wrote: "The Stata is always going to look unfinished. It also looks as if it's about to collapse. Columns tilt at scary angles. Walls teeter, swerve, and collide in random curves and angles. Materials change wherever you look: brick, mirror-surface steel, brushed aluminum, brightly colored paint, corrugated metal. Everything looks improvised, as if thrown up at the last moment. That's the point."  

Photo Wikipedia

Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada 

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) (French: Musée des beaux-arts de l'Ontario) is one of the largest galleries in North America and contains more than 80,000 works spanning the first century to the present day. Since 1974, the gallery has seen four major expansions and renovations, and continues to add spaces. 

 Hallmarks of Gehry's AGO design connect the city and the Gallery in provocative new ways including dramatic sculptural staircases, the warmth of Douglas fir, and the extensive use of glass which infuses the galleries with natural light.

 Hallmarks of Gehry's AGO design connect the city and the Gallery in provocative new ways including dramatic sculptural staircases, the warmth of Douglas fir, and the extensive use of glass which infuses the galleries with natural light.

Photo Flickr / JOH_7977

Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in New York 

The New Yorker called the Richard B. Fisher Center "[possibly] the best small concert hall in the United States." The building's heat and air-conditioning systems are entirely powered by geothermal sources, enabling the Center to be fossil fuel free during standard operations. The total cost of the project reached $62 million and took three years to complete, opening in April 2003. 

For the Richard B. Fisher Center, Gehry worked in collaboration with acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota and a team of theater consultants. "The front façade of the building can be interpreted as a theatrical mask that covers the raw face of the performance space. Its abstract forms prepare the visitor to be receptive to experiencing the performances that occur within," Gehry said of his design.

For the Richard B. Fisher Center, Gehry worked in collaboration with acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota and a team of theater consultants. "The front façade of the building can be interpreted as a theatrical mask that covers the raw face of the performance space. Its abstract forms prepare the visitor to be receptive to experiencing the performances that occur within," Gehry said of his design.

Photo courtesy A. Zahner Company

The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle 

Gehry looked to music for his inspiration when designing the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. He bought several electric guitars and cut them into pieces, serving as the building blocks of his design. 

in 2017 the "Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds" was a featured exhibition at the Museum of Pop Culture. The Paul G. Allen museum has organized more than 57 exhibitions, 20 of which have traveled nationally and internationally. The museum, known for its futuristic  Gehry design, also hosts more than 100 arts and cultural events each yea. The "MoPOP" is housed in a 140,000-square-foot building set amid the backdrop of the Seattle Center. It was built with more than 21,000 aluminum and stainless steel shingles and 280 steel ribs.

in 2017 the "Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds" was a featured exhibition at the Museum of Pop Culture. The Paul G. Allen museum has organized more than 57 exhibitions, 20 of which have traveled nationally and internationally. The museum, known for its futuristic  Gehry design, also hosts more than 100 arts and cultural events each yea. The "MoPOP" is housed in a 140,000-square-foot building set amid the backdrop of the Seattle Center. It was built with more than 21,000 aluminum and stainless steel shingles and 280 steel ribs.

Photo Brady Harvey / Museum of Pop Culture

Lou Ruvo Center in Las Vegas

The Lou Ruvo Center operates as an outpatient treatment and research facility in downtown Las Vegas on land deeded to Keep Memory Alive, the fund raising arm of LRCBH, by the City of Las Vegas as part of its Symphony Park. The Center is approximately 65,000-square-feet and includes 13 examination rooms, offices for health care practitioners and researchers, a "Museum of the Mind" and a community auditorium.

Of his design of the Lou Ruvo Center Gehry said, "The mantra is Keep Memory Alive. I’m trying to make a building that people will want to visit, remember, talk about, and enjoy, and ultimately will want to partner with us at the Center to help cure some of the neurodegenerative diseases." For 35 years, the architect has served on the board of Dr. Milton Wexler’s Hereditary Disease Foundation, established to study Huntington’s, which is why this project with Keep Memory Alive is so close to Gehry’s heart.

Of his design of the Lou Ruvo Center Gehry said, "The mantra is Keep Memory Alive. I’m trying to make a building that people will want to visit, remember, talk about, and enjoy, and ultimately will want to partner with us at the Center to help cure some of the neurodegenerative diseases." For 35 years, the architect has served on the board of Dr. Milton Wexler’s Hereditary Disease Foundation, established to study Huntington’s, which is why this project with Keep Memory Alive is so close to Gehry’s heart.

brPhoto by Patchin Pictures

New York by Gehry in New York City 

New York by Gehry is an 899-unit residential apartment building that also includes a pre-K to grade 8 public school, an ambulatory care center, retail space, and parking on the lower levels. The 1,040,904-square-foot, 76-story building is 870 feet tall and was at the time of its completion the tallest residential building in North America. 

Gehry's building at 8 Spruce Street, New York, which features a rippling, undulating stainless steel facade, has become an iconic landmark that has captured both local and global attention and won critical acclaim.

Gehry's building at 8 Spruce Street, New York, which features a rippling, undulating stainless steel facade, has become an iconic landmark that has captured both local and global attention and won critical acclaim.

Photo courtesy STUDIO DUBUISSON, L'O

Dancing House in Prague

Designed by Gehry in collaboration with the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić on a vacant riverfront plot, The Dancing House (Czech: Tančící dům), or Fred and Ginger, is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building which was completed in 1996.

Gehry's very non-traditional design of Dancing House was controversial at the time because the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous, and in the opinion of some it does not accord well with these architectural styles. The then Czech president, Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, avidly supported this project, however, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity.

Gehry's very non-traditional design of Dancing House was controversial at the time because the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous, and in the opinion of some it does not accord well with these architectural styles. The then Czech president, Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, avidly supported this project, however, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity.

Photo by Dino Quinzani

Cinémathèque Française in Paris

The Cinémathèque Française is a French film organization that holds one of the largest archives of film documents and film-related objects in the world. Based in Paris, the archive offers daily screenings of worldwide films.

Gehry’s building along Paris’s rue de Bercy opened in 1994 as the headquarters of the American Center of Paris, but closed a year and a half later. In 2005 it became home to the Cinémathèque Française, a theater and archive of film history.

Gehry’s building along Paris’s rue de Bercy opened in 1994 as the headquarters of the American Center of Paris, but closed a year and a half later. In 2005 it became home to the Cinémathèque Française, a theater and archive of film history.

Photo by Christian Gluckman

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

Set on the edge of the Nervión River in Bilbao‭, ‬Spain, the Guggenheim Museum is a landmark Gehry building.

A fusion of complex‭, ‬swirling forms and captivating materiality, Gehry‮’‬s Guggenheim Museum not only changed the way that architects and people think about museums, but also boosted Bilbao's economy.‭ ‬In fact‭, ‬the phenomenon of a city‮’‬s transformation following the construction of a significant piece of architecture is now referred to as the‭ ‬‮"‬Bilbao Effect‭.‬‮"‬‭

A fusion of complex‭, ‬swirling forms and captivating materiality, Gehry‮’‬s Guggenheim Museum not only changed the way that architects and people think about museums, but also boosted Bilbao's economy.‭ ‬In fact‭, ‬the phenomenon of a city‮’‬s transformation following the construction of a significant piece of architecture is now referred to as the‭ ‬‮"‬Bilbao Effect‭.‬‮"‬‭

Photo courtesy Guggenheim.org

Byron Loker

@byronloker

Video Producer | Surfer | Traveler | Woodworker | Failed Poet |

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