Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

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.

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

Topics include: Artistic Constraints • Dealing with Critics • Compromising • Recognizing What's Beyond your Control


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...

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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