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Design, Photography, & Fashion

Neighborhood and Context

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 7:01 min

When he starts a new project, Frank knows it's crucial to consider a building's surroundings. In this chapter, he'll share his techniques for situating his work within existing landscapes.

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Frank Gehry
Teaches Design and Architecture
In 17 lessons, Frank teaches his unconventional philosophy on architecture, design, and art.
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I try to work with context as an important part of it. And I think Paris got built, and they built Paris a cote, they called it. It's La Defense. So they built all the modern stuff at the end of the Champs-Elysees. And so it's just got its own world, and it doesn't interfere with the 19th century Paris that we all love. So you have both. There's a lot of ways to do it. I think it's just a human-- humanity thing, a sensitivity to it. I'm not suggesting that we all make 19th century buildings. I'm far from it. I'm talking about humanity scale, that the 19th century respected, and we should also respect. These places are for people. The scale of a tower in Manhattan is determined by economics and zoning. And the feel of the tower or the space or the building can be iconic and self-referential, or it can be a friend to the neighbors. You can talk to its neighbors. It can become part of a neighborhood. In the case of the Beekman Tower with the Bernini folds on it, I was looking for a way to talk to the Woolworth building that was next, nearby, and to the Brooklyn Bridge. So I tried to talk to and make an ensemble with them, so that the terracotta bands on the Woolworth building are a certain width. And I used that same width for the Bernini folds on the Beekman building. The building, the Woolworth tower, had breaks, like the New York towers did. You go up a certain number floors, and they're set back. And then there's another section, and there's another section. In the case of the-- there were two breaks in the Woolworth Tower, so I made two breaks on the Beekman tower. Our building's bigger, so it's got to be set-- laid back a little, so it's not overpowering the Woolworth building. The ensemble, when you photograph it together, does work. You see a relationship between Woolworth's, Beekman, and the Brooklyn Bridge, and it talks to you. And for me, that's kind of an ideal city model, when you're working in dense cities that somehow to-- everybody's trying to be an iconoclast. You see-- and you get one kind of city. And then everybody trying to even be an iconoclast, but even be a friend, at the same time, creates another kind of city. So I think they're not mutually exclusive, and it's something worth considering for the world we're building, because most people don't like what the cities look like. So maybe there's another way. When you're designing a new neighborhood, the scale you select or work with starts with economics, of course, with the program that relates to the land value, relates to the marketing, and all that kind of stuff. And that's serious stuff, and that does dictate a lot of things about heights and all. But there's a lot of variety within that, and that's up to us to discover that, to explore that, to take, try, different model groupings, and try and see how they fit. The new Grand Avenue projec...


Create the extraordinary

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.



Reviews

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

Great class. But, my written signature has been a longtime 'Achilles heel' for me.

If I'm unable to work with people who are somehow involved in the end product, especially when their opinion differs from mine, I will have no chance of success. Whether their idea is right or not, I HAVE to give it a chance. Frank reminds us not to get in over our heads, but to definitely challenge ourselves by being open to other people's opinions and ideas.

it's really amazing to see the knowledge and wisdom of one of the greatest architects. learning some of the ways he processes his works and just his process in general is just cool to see. I will try to implement some of his ideas to my work as well. A true legend.

Gehry's honesty and humbleness is what inspired me the most, despite all his achievements.


Comments

JE P.

What he said about the importance of human scale resonated with me very much. Whenever I encounter such architecture that does not serve the human body (both physically and psychologically) I feel out of place and the experience is not a pleasant one. Artistic expression is good but with architecture I think it's safe to say it's esp. important to not forget that it is made for humans, 'to make people friendlier, richer, more joyful' etc. 'Friendly' is the important thing.. Because too often design/architecture creates a barrier.. At the same time you wouldn't want it to be dull or tasteless for the sake of a democratic atmosphere. So how do u balance the two, that's important in my opinion.

JUANFRANC D.

It is important to take into account the context, since it is a very important variable for the creation of the work

Fred F.

This is my first time introduction to the topic. Just picking up the thought line.

Markus

It is just amazing how an interview is turned into a masterclass, but that is because someone asked the right (inaudible) questions and and then everything this giant of his trade says is pure gold. For over 30 years Frank Gehry has inspired me every time he had something to say. Humble and bold at the same time, he reminds us how much worth it is to take risks when you can make it more humane. Or huge risks if you have the opportunity. In a friends house, that is a happily living sculpture really, I found this old hand painted sign on the wall proudly proclaiming:" This house is clean enough to be healthy - and dirty enough to be home" Have fun living!

Michael W.

The ease of instruction and the underlying principles of form, and shapes and experimenting all make the art of architecture a grand journey. Much inspiration in the simplicity of life.

Graeme R.

Frank Gehry is absolutely right. Most people hate American cities, and with very good reason. Stacking and packing people seems obviously unpleasant, but with extremely expensive real estate little will change.

Margaret B.

Excellent way of encapsulating neighbourhood and context - having the buildings' design elements echo each other and enhance their surrounding districts...

Suchada

Now I understand why Building Code of Australia restrict such height extension to an existing house in some suburb but not to the others.

Mia S.

"When you're designing a new neighborhood, the scale you select or work with starts with economics, of course, with the program that relates to the land value, relates to the marketing, all that kind of stuff, and that's serious stuff, and that does dictate a lot of things about heights and all that. But there's a lot of variety within that and that's up to us to discover that, to explore that, take, try different model groupings and see how they fit. The new Grand Avenue project is a commercial building - apartments, it's got retail, got a hotel, and we're creating an interior courtyard that will be an interesting partner to Disney Hall. We could've had one tower, which had the hotel, condos, all in one buildings, and there are tall buildings like that in that neighborhood, so we could have made a selection that dealt with the taller buildings that are in downtown LA. We chose to make an assembly of buildings that were a mid-range, more like communal with the music center, the buildings in that neighborhood, so that it could relate to the park and City Hall and eventually be developed at mid-range, and leave the high, high stuff for downtown LA. This was a slightly different district, and had a different body language. That was a choice we made. We built a model of all of downtown, the whole thing, so when we put something in there, we can see it in relation to the bigger picture of downtown. It becomes clearer - laypeople can see it. You can begin to see a pattern, a sense of humanity that works with the cultural center, that's different than with the financial district. They're two different things. You make decisions based on human scale, so you try to keep them user-friendly for those kind of activities. You don't want to be at the bottom of a 70-story building, because you're not relating to it. You want several buildings, a cluster - you want to create a courtyard, landscape opportunities, nice signage, some sculpture, music outdoors. It's all the things that make a human activity inviting that are supported by the cultural activities and support the cultural activity. It works both ways, finally. Once you create one of those spaces, it happens. New York has Lincoln Center and they're doing it their way, we're doing it our way."

Mia S.

"I try to work with context as an important part - I think Paris got built, they built Paris à côte, they called it - it's La Defense, so they built all the modern stuff at the end of the Champs-Elysees, and so it's just got its own world, and it doesn't interfere with the 19th century Paris that we all love - so you have both. There's a lot of ways to do it, I think it's just a humanity thing, a sensitivity to it. I'm not suggesting that we all make 19th century buildings, far from it. I'm talking about humanity scale, that the 19th century be respected and that we should also respect, these places are for people. The scale of a tower in Manhattan is determined by economics and zoning. The feel of the tower or the space, the building can be iconic and self-referential, or it can be a friend to the neighbors - you can talk to its neighbors, it can become part of a neighborhood. In the case of the Beekman Tower, I was looking for a way to talk to the Woolworth Building nearby, and to the Brooklyn Bridge, so I tried to talk to and make an ensemble with them, so that the terracotta bands are a certain width and I used that same width for the Bernini folds. The Woolworth Tower had breaks like the New York towers did - you go up a certain number floors, and they're set back, then there's another section, another. There were two breaks in the Woolworth Tower, so I made two breaks on the Beekman Tower. Our building's bigger, so it's got to be laid back a little, so it's not overpowering the Woolworth. The ensemble, when you photograph it together, does work - you see a relationship between Woolworth's, Beekman, and the Brooklyn Bridge, and it sort of talks to you. For me, that's kind of an ideal city model, when you're working in dense cities that somehow to everybody's trying to be an iconoclast, and then you've got one kind of city; and everybody trying to be an iconoclast but even be a friend at the same time, creates another kind of city. They're not mutually exclusive, and it's something worth considering for the world we're building, because most people don't like what cities look like. So maybe there's another way."