Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Frank's Inspiration

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 6:51 min

From the great sculptures by Bernini, to the fluid movement in Hiroshige's carp paintings, Frank has found inspiration for his buildings in a myriad of places. See how he translates, interprets, and adapts shapes and themes into his own designs.

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

Topics include: Learning from Other Masters • Applying Inspiration to your own Work • Not Copying Work • Identifying Themes that Resonate with you


I'm influenced by lot of people. I read a lot of stuff. I look at a lot of stuff. And I think that encourages and engages one. And I don't think you can substitute anything for it. You have to be curious and search out these great works from the past. Not to copy them, but to at least understand what it meant. I was fascinated with the fold. I mean everybody through the history of art and architecture has been fascinated with the fold. Michelangelo spent a great part of his time drawing folds. It's primitive, because when you're a child, you're in your mother's arms in the fold. So there's something magical about exploring that idea in something as concrete as a building. I have a very close friend, Irving Lavin, who's professor of art history, who is a expert on Michelangelo, Borromini, Bernini, and all those guys. And he and I travel-- his wife and my wife-- we travel occasionally, go look at stuff. And he took me to Dijon and introduced me to Claus Sluter. There is a sarcophagus of Philip the Bold. And surrounding it are figures by Sluter, Claus Sluter, that are rarely seen. If you look at those, you can begin to see where I'd be influenced on this conference room. In this case I was very inspired with that one piece. If you look at the front, the nose, right head-on, of that piece, you'll see the Sluter dip that he made with the hoods. They came over the heads of the monks. And there's a little dip like that. It's quite beautiful. I didn't realize that I'd literally taken it till later. In my early days in practicing architecture in Los Angeles, I became very close to the local art scene, as they called it. There were a lot of artists that became my friends. I was interested in there work. I was personally close to them and to their work. And I watched them create their work. And they watched me create my work. And there was a kind of synergism between us. Even though they were separate, they were separate but equal, so to speak. And in my formative years of practice, that was an important thing. At Harvard I was exposed to Corbusier. There were people from Corb's office working there that were teaching at Harvard. Corbusier had a show of his paintings. And I looked at those paintings and I didn't like the paintings. I thought they're all over the place. then I saw the designs for Ronchamp, that little church near the Swiss border. And it's so beautiful. That came out of those studies of the paintings. I could see a direct line from the paintings to the building. Made me realize that at least this architect could work out through another media. I mean, like Michael Heizer is really an incredible artist who I looked to. He grew up with a father who was an archaeologist. And so Michael in his early years experienced Egypt and the scale of those constructions. And ...

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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