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Design & Style

Expressing Movement

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 06:58 min

It started with an offhand comment about a fish. It turned into Frank Gehry's signature style. Learn about Franks fascination with movement, where it came from, and how he's able to add it to an inanimate building.

Frank Gehry
Teaches Design and Architecture
In 17 lessons, Frank teaches his unconventional philosophy on architecture, design, and art.


I was interested in expressing movement with inert materials. The Greek sculptors did it. Elgin Marbles, if you look at those warriors, they're pressing into the stone. And you can feel the pressure of them today. That message gets through. The power of it gets through. The horses look like they're running. The fabric looks like it's wafting in the breeze. It still feels like it's moving. Bernini's Santa Teresa in Rome, it feels like a fabric. It feels warm and inviting. The fold is the basic child experience in his mother's arms with the clothes folds is so basic to our understanding and our first feelings of love and warmth. And Michelangelo spent a lot of his life drawing folds. The old guys were fascinated. In fact, most of the paintings, the great paintings of the years past, the portraits have the little head on top, and they spend time making that portrait, but the dress and the costumes with the folds is where they spent most of their art time. And I urge you to spend more time looking at the folds than the faces. The Museum of Modern Art had a show on Beaux-Art. And it was just at the point where all my architecture brethren were running out of ideas on modernism, because the dead end of the minimalism thing struck everybody. Malevich took minimalism in his life all the way to the black square. And then he had nothing to do after that. He didn't know what to do after. So he quit, because it was a dead end. And he started making costumes. And Lo and behold, the Museum of Modern Art has these beautiful, beautiful renderings of Beaux-Arts buildings. And the seduction was complete. And Philip Johnson did the AT&T building. And Bob Stern took off. You name it, everybody was doing post-modern and regurgitating the past. And some of it very successfully. And some of it very beautifully. But it was-- I was offended because we were looking backward. And in a lecture I gave, I said the Greek temples you're emulating are anthropomorphic. And if you really have to go back, why don't you go back 300 million years to fish. And that just came out automatically. I don't know why. And then I started drawing fish and my sketch books, just, I don't know why. I started drawing them, because I said that. And then I realized that heroes see good through beautiful fish drawings of the carp. And there are many Japanese prints that I've seen and loved with carp and flowing tails and fins and that kind of stuff. And I started drawing fish everywhere, just in my sketchbook. I never intended to build them, buildings that looked like fish. And then I was invited by a fashion house in Italy to make a fish sculpture. They had seen my fish drawings. And they said could you make a fish sculpture for a fashion show. And I said, of course. And I went to Cinecitta in Roma. And I got them to b...

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.


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

Fascinating..The candid advice and exploration of the various aspects from vision to design to materials to clients and is awesome. It gets me into deep introspection and allows one to step back and see the wider picture.

This class has been one of my favourites from the whole series.

It is quite an inspirational series of videos, thank you!

I have learned that design is very versatile and consists of many different layers. Once a designer/architect has discovered his/her fingerprint, every monument is going to be iconic. The human aspect is very important.


Natalie S.

I realize how male saturated the industry is just by the lack of any female peers mentioned.


As a non-architect, this specific video was a turning point for me. Up until now, most of the videos have been about the creative process in general. Don't get me wrong, some of it was very interesting, but it didn't shed much light on architecture specifically. This lesson changed that. It helped to put Gehry's work in a larger context: how he views modernism (and post-modernism) and why he strives to create "movement" in his buildings. Well done!

Joshua L.

A profound explanation of his "Eureka" moment which just makes sense. He doesn't pretend to have had any perfect plan in place when these ideas and craft come upon him. I wonder though, if asked to be marvelous as he has been, can he conjure up or can people force the magic to happen?

A fellow student

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Cordell E.

I just love Frank Gehry for the fact that he can take something that is not even close to a building, (in this case, a fish statue) into one of the coolest buildings that ever existed (in my opinion).

Darius C.

I am not an architect but I really enjoy Mr. Gehry’s idea of expressing moment in instilling that kind of possibility in inanimate objects. As a concept designer for theme Parks I feel that is also something I always strive for when designing concepts and facades to tell a story and to provide a little character to my designs. Also the idea of respecting your neighbours and always trying to balance out the relationship between different elements also helps to reassure and inspire me. Thank you so much for the life lessons Sir!

Gabe M.

An effect of transparency is created within the folds of this sculpture called "Virgin with veil"- It was carved out of marble in the XIX century by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza (1818-1875).


I think it is important to be attentive to any moment of inspiration in order to then take it to the reality, in line with our feelings.

Mia S.

"That egged me on. I then had an opportunity to do a show at the Walker Museum of my work. I decided to make the fish, and I cut the head off and the tail off, and I got rid of the fins. I made it in lead copper. And it still moved, when you stood beside it - you felt the movement. That was my eureka moment. Then I started playing with the curved forms, which led to Bilbao, which in my mind was expressing movement - the idea that these shapes didn't appear static, they appeared they had a sense of movement, and therefore that was the replacement for the dead end of minimalism and decoration. Period."

Mia S.

"Everybody was doing postmodern and regurgitating the past, and some of it very successfully, very beautifully. I was offended because we were looking backward, and in a lecture I gave, I said, 'The Greek temples you're emulating are anthropomorphic. If you really have to go back, why don't you go back 3 million years to fish?' Then I started drawing fish in my sketchbooks, just - I don't know why, I started drawing them because I said that. And then I realized that Hiroshige drew beautiful fish drawings, and there are many Japanese prints that I'd seen and loved with carp and flowing tails and fins, and that kind of stuff. I started drawing fish everywhere - I never intended to build them, buildings that looked like fish. I was invited by a fashion house in Italy to make a fish sculpture - they'd seen my fish drawing, and they said, ;Make a fish sculpture for a fashion show.' I got them to build a fish that was 35 feet long in wood with the tail and the fins and eyes. It was a super piece of kitsch, it was embarrassing. I had a hole in it and put some of the fashion figures inside, like Jonah in the whale, and some of the figures outside. I was standing beside the fish with the director of one Dutch museums who hated my work; we're looking at this enormous piece of kitsch, and I thought, 'Man, I'm giving this guy fuel for the fire.' He said, 'How'd you do that? I think it moved. Could we have a coffee?' This guy who hated me then proceeded to talk to me for an hour about how I had created movement with this bloody piece of kitsch, which is what I was trying to do but I didn't know I'd done it."