Design, Photography, & Fashion

Materials and Prototyping

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 9:12 min

Being a master builder means staying on top of the latest in material advancements. Frank gives you a peek into his 'prototyping graveyard', where he tests materials that pique his interest, and looks for the humanity in the mundane.

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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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You've got to sort of get focused on something you want to accomplish. And then you just doggedly figure out how to make it work. We started playing with white brick. And how do you make a brick house that doesn't feel like a brick house? How do you make it so it looks like a fabric, and yet you retain the brick quality, but yet it's softer? And so we've been building mockups of that with various types of brick, with normal brick that's glazed which is nice. It has a nicer humanity to it than fabricated white bricks. So it's all of those issues that you start to play with. We have a bone yard outside the office where we keep playing with those materials. Our biggest research is in glass because when you do an office building, how do you get a feeling of glass that has a humanity to it, doesn't look like all the faceless glass buildings that are being built all over the world. And how do you deal with the energy issues of the glass? And how do you-- And there's a lot of subtlety there. And so we build a lot of glass mockups. And we work with a lot of glass companies to get samples. Like in the Barry Diller building, we had no idea that you could cold bend the glass to six inches and get a curved glass wall for free. You didn't have to cast it. And in order to invent it, we had to go to the insurance company. And because it was a double wall, it was a sealed unit with double glazing, we had to get an approval from the insurance company as to how much bend they'll allow. They said four inches. They wouldn't allow the full six. So we made Barry Diller's building three and one half, as an extra insurance to make sure, you know, that we were covered. I think that's the level of detail that you have to get into. You have to be willing to get into that. You can't just slough it off. There are breakthroughs in form, like Zaha Hadid and others have done, that are interesting. But also there need to be breakthroughs in the materials themselves. We're always looking around for materials. There's an aerated aluminum that's made for blast protection on Humvees. And it's very beautiful. And I got all excited about it and started playing with it. And it's aerated. And some my clients got all excited about it, too. In this case it's a building in the south of France. It's a 15 story building. It's not an office building. It's a foundation. So it has artists studios in it. It has a library. And we wanted the southern light, the French light to caress the material and paint with it. I always like to think that the light, if you use the material right, the light paints on it. And we made the maquettes large scale a bit and realized that the cellular quality of it sucked all the light out of it. And it wasn't as friendly from a distance. It had a kind of a dour look to it that we didn't expect. So ...


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.

Great insights from Frank Gehry. Assignments would have been great, otherwise an excellent course.

An inspiring teacher. I loved how he makes his world come alive, how he shares what moves him and what worked for him. Enjoyed listening to him and found him a true inspiration.

What I learned from the class does not only applied to architecture, but also applied to what I am doing now: developing consumer electronics products.

Undeniably it was a change, i feel right now like i can do anything i would like and want, without limits, no edges. Thank FG, thank MasterClass.


Comments

Mia S.

"You have to spend time with the mechanical systems people, find out what leeway there is there, what can be done within budgets, what can be done that doesn't lead to ugly stuff all over your building. As part of this process, you have to cost-estimate what you've done. You have to get a clear picture that they can afford what you're showing them. For instance, in our house we did, we used geothermal - we did it because we wanted to see how it worked. I was paying for it, it was on my nickel. What I got is a house that's very quiet, I didn't expect that. You walk in and you don't hear any motors or anything, and it's a very, very special feeling. That was a by-product. Is it worth doing? I think in my lifetime in that house, it won't pay off, but it makes me feel good that we did it, and it's comfortable. You've got to weigh all those things. When you're doing work for a client, and they're paying for it, you have to be straight with them and tell them all this, and tell them what those options are. Tell them, 'If you want, I can show you an example of how quiet this can be. Is it worth an extra $100,000 to do it?' They may not want it, they may say, 'Well, we're 75 years old, we're not going to be around that long, so... not worth it.' All these kind of human decisions come into play. I can't say enough times that you must seriously control the budget - you must make that a value. The client may say, 'Look, I want to spend more money.' 'OK, but you gave me this amount. This is what it's doing, this is how it is, if you want to spend more money, make the room bigger, fine. You want to add marble, fine.' But this is kind of the way I see it - you ballpark it, so they have an idea of what they're getting from it, because people don't realize construction cost. You have to be willing to understand that."

Mia S.

"There's an aerated aluminum that's made for blast protection on Humvees, and it's very beautiful and I got all excited about it and started playing with it; some of my clients got all excited about it, too. In this case it's a building in the south of France, it's a 15-story building, not an office building. It's a foundation, so it has artist studios in it, it has a library. We wanted the southern light, the French light, to caress the material and paint with it. I always like to think that, if you use the material right, the light paints on it. We made the the maquettes large-scale, and realized that the cellular quality of it sucked all the light out of it, and it wasn't as friendly from a distance - it had a kind of a dour look to it that we didn't expect. We abandoned it. I had a building that it would've been possible to use it on in the Pyrenees where it would be simulating a rock outcropping, and out there it would work, it would be light and would be a wonderful material to use for that. When I was doing Disney Hall, I was thinking about a building that you go to in the evening - it would have been stone, because the ambient light in the neighborhood, without putting spotlights on it, would be soft and mellow. That project was shelved for awhile; in the same period, we did the building in Bilbao with titanium, that was quite fortuitous: titanium was dumped on the market by the Russians, so it was underbid stainless steel, so we took advantage of it, and it worked really well in Bilbao because titanium was buttery-looking in gray light, and Bilbao had a lot of rain and gray light and it worked. Disney Hall, they couldn't afford the stone. They liked Bilbao. Titanium was too expensive, so we had to use stainless steel. The stainless steel we studied endlessly, to get the right texture, the right feeling. It's difficult to light stainless steel at night - it can look like a cheap refrigerator. So I was constantly aware of that. Then budget crises came along, and they didn't light it properly. That's still an ongoing saga of how to light that building, which if it had been done in stone, it would've been mellow and soft."

Mia S.

"You've got to sort of get focused on something you want to accomplish, and then you just doggedly figure out how to make it work. We started playing with white brick - how do you make a brick house that doesn't feel like a brick house? How do you make it so it looks like a fabric, you retain the brick quality, yet it's softer? With various types of brick, with normal brick that's glazed, which has a nicer humanity to it than fabricated white bricks. It's all of those issues that you start to play with. We have a boneyard outside the office where we keep playing with those materials. Our biggest research is in glass - when you do an office building, how do get a feeling of glass that has a humanity to it, doesn't look like all the faceless glass buildings that are being built all over the world. How do you deal with the energy issues of the glass? There's a lot of subtlety there, so we build a lot of glass mock-ups., we work with a lot of glass companies to get samples. We had no idea that you could cold-bend the glass to six inches and get a curved glass wall for free, you didn't have to cast it. In order to invent it, we had to go to the insurance company, and because it was a double wall, it was a sealed unit with double glazing, we had to get an approval from the insurance company as to how much bend they'll allow. They said four inches, they wouldn't allow the full six. So we made Barry Diller's building three and a half, as an extra insurance to make sure that we were covered. That's the level of detail that you have to get into - you have to be willing to get into that, you can't just slough it off. There are breakthroughs in form, like Zaha Hadid and others have done, that are interesting. But also there need to be breakthroughs in the materials themselves. We're always looking around for materials."

Penny S.

I've been through a couple of classes and this is a great class. He is a very rich and knowledgeable man. Not only about architecture but humanity too. I like his style of teaching and his way of carrying himself in everything he does, (it sounds by his stories). A legendary Architect and man in general.

Larissa S.

They are very valid and important the tips that Frank's gave for us, about to risk and make choices. Some choices don't need to be for ever. We need to test what materialand prototyping is better for this building ou surrounding.

Salomé O.

The importance the light and the material that said Frank Gehry is very useful , because there are many reasons for this decision in the design, other important point is the the way it should be with the client.

Darya Z.

Great thought of the symbiotic relationship between materials and a light. They always come together. A light can transform a material, can show it in a very different way. As Mr Gehry said, "If you use the material right the light paints on it". The very idea of respecting this relationship is very important in designing.

Michela G.

The use of different materials is typical of the architect's expression, which must not be limited to using only traditional materials but must continually experiment to find its true expression.

Shobitha J.

Sometimes, monetary constraints lead to interesting solutions and even birth of new materials. In a way, it almost comes down to, 'constraints give way for new ideas'. Personally I find it difficult to design if there were no restrictions.

Ken S.

One of my favorite school projects was the Barcelona Pavilion and studying its expression and celebration of the materials. I remember reading about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's fascination & enjoyment with visiting the stone yards to pick out the best slabs of marble. This connection with the physical raw materials is at risk of being lost as the world demands and moves toward faster and faster results. I applaud Mr. Gehry for spending his own money to explore and experiment with materials and systems before selling them to a client.