Design, Photography, & Fashion

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.

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


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 ...

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.


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

A genious, I loved his humility. A real MASTER of life.

It could be longer, really. And noone talks in the forum. But it is good!

Listening to the man behind the legend was very though provoking to me. I took my time and listened over a few months absorbing each session and I think I am better for it.

It seems that here is a lot of interesting people! Hope to be like all of you.


Lloyd C.

It is refreshing to see designers at the height of their craft talking not so much about their own insights, but about how much they are inspired by the works of others. Gerry talks in particular about how he sees something that he may not even be able to express why he is attracted to it. He explains how his mind dwells on it and how he attempts to "riff" off of whatever that feeling is until he understands enough of it to incorporate into his own creative act.


He does not brag about his work!!! He knows he is famous but he seems to be surprised about his perfection!!!!

Monique A.

Loved the lesson! Had a bit of trouble in the Hub with the assignment it wouldn't let me upload all the photos and then it wouldn't let me do more than 3 replies when I was trying to spread the photos out.

A fellow student

The lesson is very inspiring indeed! The Document PDF attachment from the video link and the Description link is not working though

A fellow student

A good lesson in trusting yourself and your individual creative impulses, thoughts and designs. Dare to be different and dealing with it when the input to your creation is not so positive. Your voice is you. The creative process is not set but fluid and hopefully fun and agonizing. Some pretty good stuff here. Great encouragement!

Fernando L.

Inspiration today seems something very difficult to archive. Studios search online for “sensing images”, “references” or “inspiration images” but at end of the day they have a collage of relevant projects in one mediocre idea... masters are the ones to get inspiration from anywhere and most of the time they are not related to their fields.

Dennis R.

Mr. Gehry's designs are a study in beauty that comes from all areas of life. He doesn't subscribe to the cookie cutter style of design, but reaches out to explore and create works of art around workable areas. Never stop exploring or learning is the wonderful message Mr. Gehry has conveyed here. In my designs, I always study the Masters first, but then I explore my world and create what I pull from the life around me. I think "inside the box" first, but then I look to break out of the borders and explore what is outside the box.

Gabe M.

"The most important thing is to be yourself and not try to be me or anybody else. You can be inspired by characters like me and people like Bob Smithson - his philosophy, his writings - Frank Lloyd Wright and Bob Venturi, Rem Koolhaas, and Thom Mayne, and all kinds of people who are working in the field. Those are wonderful people to study and understand" One could also include the colorful works of Mexican architect Luis Barragan ("It's the unified sequence of distinct spaces that constitutes a structure") as well as the brilliant work of Santiago Calatrava from Spain and architect Arata Isozaki from Japan. The masterful works of John Lautner and a few other amazing architects from FLW's Taliesin crew can also make that list. There's a nice range of talented architects available to study today and it seems like our technologies can be useful at helping to make it more accessible.


It is important to be with yourself and go our own way, and using the inspiration of the great masters, to interpret and be able to adapt the forms and themes in our own designs.

Richard S.

This is my idea of a superhero, Its the confidence he has in the smallest nuance, the world is full of people ready to dismiss anything that isn't immediately obvious. He has an understanding of how many subdivisions in the thought process are required to produce something that becomes interesting to people that have the time to look and experience it over a period of time. As an outsider to the profession I am really enjoying this content.