Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Design Philosophy: Part 2

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 13:57 min

Frank dives deeper into the theories he considers crucial to every architect's design process.

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Topics include: Respect your neighbor • Consider common materials • Begin your process on paper • There are no small projects • Know when you're done • Don't dine out on your successes


If you're building a building in the middle of a city, there is, I think, a responsibility to respect your neighbor, like you would anyway, so architecturally respect your neighbor. Somebody looks at Disney Hall, they say, hell, you just ignored everything around it. What are you talking about respect? You just made a big shiny thing and it just-- it gives the finger to the Chandler. But it doesn't, I mean if you spend some time with it. As you come down Grand Avenue, the Chandler curves. So I opened the curve to the entrance. And I was careful to do that I made the new building out of smaller parts, so it wasn't one big building like the Chandler, so it wasn't competing as a Chandler. It had its own body language. And so those moves are very small in the scale, but they do count for a lot. In the tower I did in New York, I was next to the Woolworth Building. The Woolworth Building is a beautiful old building. I have a lot of respect for it. And so I didn't put a cap on it. I respect the Woolworth Building as a beautiful sculptural cap on it. And I didn't want to mimic it. I wanted it to say, you got the hat. I'm respecting your seniority. And I think that kind of respect your neighbors architecturally is important to me. I looked at the material that was most used worldwide that everybody hated, and that was chain link fencing. And so I thought, OK. Let me see if I can make something out of it that they'll like. Well, I got guffaws and everything for years. Today even, people who don't really-- are not really interested or intellectually involved still look at it. Oh, you're the chain link guy. A friend of mine built a tennis court. He made fun of me with chain link. I went to his house and he had a tennis court, which is surrounded in chain link that you could see from every room of his house. He bought a fancy Bel Air mansion. And he was so proud of it. And he's the guy that made the most fun of me with chain link. And I went to look at it. And I said, gee, I'm sorry. I converted you to that dastardly material. He said, what are you talking about? I said, that thing out there. That's chain link. He said, no, that's a tennis court. I was designing an entrance piece for a house I was doing in Ohio for a wealthy guy, a good friend. And when you see the final thing, you think it's a skull of an animal like a horse. And so we call it the Horse's Head. But when I was designing for this guy's house and I didn't know it was Horse's Head and I didn't know it was going to look like that, I sort of was trusting my intuition to create something that was an ephemeral image in my mind that I couldn't quantify or draw. I could sketch and do things with it. But in this case, I tried to design it on the computer, because I realized if we could do that, that would save a lot of time and effor...

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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