What made Gehry Great?

Translated by Hilary Luk  |   中文版

Gehry the Great

You may ask yourself, who is the existing world’s most famous architect? Is it I.M. Pei? Is it Foster? If you answered Frank Gehry, you are not far off. Frank Gehry was a Toronto-born Jew, under the name Frank Owen Goldberg. For fear of being discriminated with his Jewish surname, he changed it to Gehry. This later became his lifelong regret.

What made Gehry Great? 

One must mention the creation that transforms him from a famous architect to a household celebrity. It was the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum that made him a household name. In many ways, the museum is the most successful building of the 20th century.

The Bilbao Guggenheim was constructed on time and within budget. This was very rare for such a bizarre building design. The Bilbao Guggenheim Museum can be contrasted to Foster’s Apple headquarters, which not only ran behind schedule but also over budget by two billion U.S. dollars.

Economically, the museum successfully redeveloped a former ship and steel construction city. The city had dwindled from its once prosperous metropolis in its glory days. Gehry transformed this outdated city into the renowned cultural city that it is today. Bilbao’s mayor intention was to have the museum to lead the redevelopment of the city. Many cities attempted to do this but had failed. Ever since the resurrection of the city of Bilbao, the term “Bilbao effect” was coined.

Architecturally, Philip Johnson described it as “the greatest building of our time”. Considering his age, His he had witnessed countless great structures in his era. The Bilbao Guggenheim Museum is considered to be both a building and sculpture. This created the style we know today as Archisculpture.

Bilbao Guggenheim is not only leading edge in its architectural ideas but also in its technological ideas. Frank Gehry invented new computer technology to accommodate the complexity of the building façade. Frank Gehry became a pioneer and consequently the designs of Calatrava, Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas were made possible.

Some may argue that Bilbao Guggenheim is not physically attractive. Out of all possible form of the world, he had to choose this bizarre and crooked one? Some struggle to praise the interior while others criticize the design to be completely disconnected with the environment. In my opinion, Frank Gehry was a pioneer to grasp and master the latest ideas and technology. He even became somewhat obsessed at times. Nevertheless, his minute flaws should be forgiven.

After the Bilbao was constructed, Frank Gehry continued to become famous for Disney Concert Hall, Seattle EMP Museum and many others.