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Design, Photography, & Fashion

Design Obstacles

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 05:59 min

Critics, clients, even the ebb and flow of the economy can have dramatic effects on the work that you do. Frank shares stories of how he has overcome these obstacles, and ended up seeing them as opportunities.

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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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As a practicing architect, you are constantly confronted with constraints. Gravity is one of them. Budgets are a big one. Who's the client, what are their expectations, who you're working with. There's a lot of room for creativity outside that. You can but meet all those constraints and still make architecture out of it. Years ago, I was sitting at dinner next to Sydney Pollack, and I was full of myself in those days. I was a lot younger, and I was feeling like nobody respected artists, and architects. here was this big movie guy who's made all these great films, and so I was very judgmental, and I was kind of an asshole. And I ventured to say to him, you know, you just do that stuff. There's no art in it, nothing. And Sydney, who was a spectacular human being and great guy, was very patient with me. He turned to me and said, that's not true, Frank. He said, you know, when I make a Western film for Hollywood, I got constraints. There's a pro forma I have to follow. And he said, there's no question. I can't make it unless there's the hero, he's got to ride to town, he's got to blah, blah, blah. But he says, within all those constraints, I have 15% of freedom to make my art. And I looked at him, and I went home that night, and I called him the next day, and I said that's exactly the same percentage I have. And so we became fast friends after that. But I think everybody faces it in their work. You know, the constraints are constraints. I mean, they're opportunities to explore things. And some great movies have been made, some great buildings have been made, even some great legislation has been written throughout the constraints, and with the constraints. There are times when you work on projects, they're very complicated. The length of time from the day day you're hired to a project complete could be at least six or seven years. Things happen in the world during that six or seven years. Sometimes economies go up and down. Things that change which have a serious effect on what you're doing and are things that you have no control over. It's like you're in the middle of a sentence, and you're just finishing the sentence, and cut, and now what? On the tower in New York, we were at the 40th floor, and we were told cut. That's as high as they're going. 76 story tower, they're going to stop it at 40. So it was going to be a stub. I had a meeting with the client in a restaurant looking across the river at the stub. The client was devastated. I was devastated. Everybody-- we had a few drinks, devastating drinks. We were caught. She was caught, I was caught, they were caught. There wasn't anything-- no malice or forethought. It was the economy dumped. It was 2008 and everybody went sideways. Couple weeks passed and the woman that worked for the client through a senior, she took the risk, and made it happen. So as you're working i...


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.

Good course. He was more of a mentor than teacher

Since I draw and don't actually build what I draw, it was interesting to hear about the process Gehry goes through to get an idea into solid form. I particularly liked the auditorium episode, about how they built a tenth-scale version of their design to understand the acoustics.

Inspiring words of wisdom from an architectural

I am inspired to incorporate more creative design into my house even though on a tight budget.


Comments

david

'I really empathize with the talk on design constraints..."I have 15% in which to make my art." Resonate with this. Deep.

Susan A.

I have liked them all. He speaks with an authenticity of heart and soul and not just from an academic place. I wonder what he thinks of graduate programs in Interior Architecture or Architecture that stress learning the software first and foremost like Revit, etc. I have found that placing so much emphasis on the tools themselves, although important at some point, derails one from being an innovator, a designer.

A fellow student

I am personally enriched to have experienced the mind and heart of a genuine American architectural icon. Gehry's insights and candor regarding his long trajectory of success and failure in his architecture practice should serve as inspiration for young, creative entrepreneurs in almost any field of endeavor, not just architecture.

A fellow student

Materials and opportunities. Does anyone else feels as though destruction is or could be an opportunity to experiment or relearn materials? For example, the fire at Notre Dame and the use of lead as a material or the possibility of discovering a material or structure that would withstand hurricanes and be inhabited as a residence.

A fellow student

Frank's story about design obstacles can be applicable to life's obstacles. He is a thinker

Dennis R.

I loved how honest Mr. Gehry was in this lesson; "I was full of myself; I was an ahole: I made mistakes; etc." This lesson taught me that all of us have issue with not having time to express ourselves due to constraints of a project, but there is always some freedom to express ourselves.

PJ

constraints. took on a whole new meaning for me. nice to hear you were an a-hole and can admit it. i think everyone goes through that, but admitting it and fixing it is what matters. nothing like the experience of years and age, a lot of time to reflect. i love getting old, best years of my life... thank you Frank.

Clement C.

Thanks Frank for reminding us we do have some freedom, and with this freedom, we do the best we can, with the constraints, to impact and fulfil our passion.

A fellow student

I really got a lot from this discussion on constraints/challenges and the comparisons across professions. It would appear that they occur not just across professions but also across virtually all aspects of the human experience, relationships, raising a family etc. It seems obvious when discussed, however I have definitely been one at times to focus on the constraints/challenges that are beyond my control rather than focusing my energy on the 15% that I can. This feels like a little epiphany that I can take forward in many aspects of life and the challenges within.

Mia S.

"There are times when you work on projects - they're very complicated. The length of time from when you're hired to a project complete could be at least six or seven years. Things happen in the world during that six or seven years - sometimes economics go up and down, things that change, which have a serious effect on what you're doing and are things that you have no control over. You're in the middle of a sentence, and you're just finishing the sentence, and cut - now what? On the tower in New Yrok, we were told, 'Cut. That's as high as they're going.' 76 story tower, they're going to stop it at 40. It was going to be a stub. I had a meeting with the client looking across the river at the stub. The client was devastated, I was devastated, everybody - we had a few drinks, devastating drinks. She was caught, I was caught, they were caught, there wasn't anything - no malice or forethought. It was, the economy dumped. It was '08 and everybody went sideways. Couple weeks passed and the woman that worked for the client through a senior, she took the risk and made it happen. As you're working in real life and real time, you're constantly having small victories and small mistakes, and this just goes on. The important thing is to keep moving ahead, and learning from mistakes and building on it, building positive momentum from that. Because it is a very complex endeavor, a lot of it is life and death - it's security, you go down paths with materials and things that you think are going to work and you find they don't, and you have to recoup, and re-understand, regroup, find another option. You're constantly evaluating, reevaluating directions, mistakes, opportunities, and bad advice. Because you got a lot of people involved- you got mechanical engineers, structural engineers, it's like a puzzle - you have to put it all together, and it's gotta fit at the end perfectly and be a building that everybody likes."