Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Design Philosophy: Part 1

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 9:50 min

Over the course of his storied career, Frank has developed a series of hard-won philosophies about design and architecture. In the next two chapters, he passes these philosophies on to you.

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

Topics include: Designing for real life • Imagine you're the audience • Transfer your feelings • Focus on expression not symmetry


You know that guy, William Shakespeare? You've heard of him? And you heard of what he said. "All the world's a stage." That comment? I think that was-- that's pretty true. We're all on stage. We're all actors, acting out our lives on stage. And the stage is the background, are the buildings we build. They should be human friendly, respectful of people. They should engage you. So I would say 98% of the cities around the world don't do that. John Cage said, "Not knowing cheers the knowing." And I think that's pretty much my philosophy too. I have always felt that, if you know what you're going to do in advance, then you won't do it. That's like jazz. They don't know exactly where they're going, and somebody plays a few notes, and then they pick up, and they do it. And creativity, I think, in all fields including business, including science, starts with the unknown. So you gotta be curious, I think. And not be afraid to be curious. And you've got to find your own voice. I mean, we can talk about it here, in this kind of format. But if I have a New York City developer client that wants me to do a 70-story tower, and I tell them, "Not knowing cheers the knowing," he'll kick me out of the room. So it's not something you can broadcast, in a way. It's just the way you work. We live in a world that's basically a lot of-- a collision of thoughts is surrounding us. And it's represented in the buildings, and the music, and art. And so the idea of having a neat, clean box seems like a lie. The messiness is kind of a signature of the times, I think. So it's kind of logical that we would express that, in when you build. And the pristine, Miesean, Farnsworth House idea is antithetical to that, to today. I get in trouble here because, you know, a long time ago, Mies van der Rohe did the Farnsworth House in Illinois. And it's a beautiful sculpture. Everything is organized and spotless to conform to that aesthetic. And they can't escape it. And it's overpowering. The architecture would organize your life, in maybe a negative way, an unfriendly way. The people who do it, God bless them. They love it, and they feel comfortable in it. I think they have other houses that they can go to, and throw their clothes on the floor, and have their kids play in. But these become-- these pristine houses become like museum things. There's a lot of buildings like that, that are really beautiful architecture. So I'm not demeaning them, by any means. But Mies van der Rohe himself lived in a apartment with all kinds of tchotchkes, and books, and stuff. And they're user friendly. So I think there's a kind of comfort, you know. You walk in, and you want to sit on the couch. You want the light to be soft when you want it. You want the room not to be harsh. You want-- I think you can make architecture an...

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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