Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment


Frank Gehry

Lesson time 09:37 min

Frank Gehry and Associates have been a bustling business since 1962, a monumental feat in the world of architecture. In this chapter, Frank shares how he runs an ethical, creative, collaborative, and profitable business.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Frank's business model • Have financial integrity • Be a master builder • Prove your design can be built • Fight waste


My father used to tell me I wasn't going to be-- I wasn't a businessman. So I assumed I wasn't a businessman. I've run an office since 1964. And it's been profitable, and everybody gets paid, and everybody gets a Christmas bonus. That's since 1964. I started out with that personal mandate that I wasn't going to have free labor, because that's a disease that happens in the profession. A lot of people get work by doing a lot of free work. And the way they get to-- if they can afford to do it, they get a lot of student labor and don't pay them very much. And it's a slippery slope. And I've never done it. Even the youngest intern that comes to my office, even though they don't expect to get paid, get paid. I don't borrow money either. That was the other thing I didn't do. So I didn't have any, but I didn't borrow it. The little house that got me all in a notoriety, I only spent $50,000 on it. You don't have to be super rich to do this stuff. I think you have to have the heart, and the will, and the tenacity to not fold under pressure and understand your responsibility in the game. So that's the business model, if you want, if you call it that. And I followed that, and it worked. I can tell you it works. If you have a sense of responsibility toward your client, toward making a building, toward creating, you also have to have a responsible construct in your own office so that there isn't a failure along the way that puts the client at risk. So there has to be a sense when you're being hired that there is a responsible financial entity that's not going to fail at a crucial point in the relationship. So running the office responsibly so that it has that financial integrity is really important, because there are a lot of my brethren who don't pay attention to it as a priority. That meant I had to work a couple of all-nighters and do a lot of stuff, because I couldn't afford the first project. Slowly, it became possible to hire people. And slowly, it became possible-- but creating that discipline has worked for me. And it's not it's not a get rich discipline probably, but it has been a solid financial discipline. That's something I'm really proud of, that we've been able to do it. I don't talk about it very much. It's probably one of the first times I talked about. I was trained in the '50s and was fortunate to have teachers that talked about how you build buildings. And so the design process included constructability. If the architect doesn't have complete control or the budget and constructability all the way from beginning to end and it's not the sort of the master builder then nine or 10, they would be over budget. And then the owner freaks out, and the owner turns to the contractor. And the contractor and the owner then concoct ways to reduce the budget. And the architects marginalized in that conversation. So...

About the Instructor

At 19 years old, Frank Gehry was a truck driver taking sculpture classes at night school. His vision for what architecture could accomplish went on to reshape our cities’ skylines and the imaginations of artists and designers around the world. In his online architecture class, this master builder invites you into his never-before-seen model archive for a look into his creative process.

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Frank Gehry

In 17 lessons, Frank teaches his unconventional philosophy on architecture, design, and art.

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