Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Materials and Prototyping

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 09:11 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.

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

Topics include: Research and play with the latest materials • Test how new materials play with light • Get creative with materials that suit your budget • Show clients what can be done


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 ...

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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