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Design & Style

Creating With Your Client

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 15:03 min

Frank knows the importance of communicating with clients. By including them at every step of the design process, your projects will gain order and personality. In this chapter, Frank shares how to make creative collaboration a priority.

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


When you're working with a client, you're working with people. They have feelings, they have needs, that changes from day to day. They may have seen a picture in a magazine that you would hate, but they came and say, "look! I want to do this!" So, it's non-linear. You've got to be willing to roll with the punches. I think of it as steering a boat, your hands on the tiller. It's subtle. When you're sailing it varies constantly, and things happen. And you have to be open to it. That's the excitement, to us, is to get people really involved. Because, if it's a house it's their, going to be their place to live. So you don't-- I don't like just making a sculpture and say, OK, here it is, take it or leave it, and move in. Every project you do, it's important to develop a trust relationship with the client where they know that you're working for them. You're bringing your art form to their-- to them. It's not unlike the, I mean he was pompous, but Michelangelo with Pope Julius. He was doing the paintings that Pope Julius asked him to, but he was doing them his way. We get a client, somebody calls us and says they want to do something, let's make it simple call it a house. They have a property somewhere, in a canyon or on the beach or somewhere. They have a family, they have a certain budget. We try to find out who the people are. What are their values, what are their art collection, what are-- how they live, what their dream is for this particular dwelling. What part of the site is-- why they chose the site, why they chose me, why they-- just getting to know you kind of period. We have a client now for a house whose background is Iranian. She has a different model for a family compound than a lot of different cultures. And so, to get into that and create this, the privacy that she needs from her family, and that allows for the communal activity, all of that starts at the beginning. I start to understand these people and what they like, what their values are, how they talk to each other. And during that period we sit and sketch. I mean, I can't help it. I just always have a pen or pencil in my hand, and some blank paper. And I'm thinking with them out loud as to the usual spaces-- living room, dining room, bedroom, blah, blah, blah-- and starts to develop a story that inspires a kind of visual response. An organizational response, an architectural response, a kind of a spatial response. And I'm not talking about six months of meetings. I'm talking about three or four meetings. Visit to the site, visit to their house they live in, maybe go out to dinner to their favorite restaurant. Just three or four meetings like that, you start to establish a rapport that is comfortable for both sides. I mean it's not that complicated, is just being aware that there's a lot of nuance in different cultures, different lives. It's...

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.

Loved learning a little about the architect’s thought processes and creative flow —use of materials, context of buildings in streetscape etc.—overall a great experience taught by a master practitioner of the art of architecture.

Frank's honesty about the industry was very insightful!

This class unearthed itself as a hidden gem. I did not know anything of architecture going in, but learned loads that I can also parallel into my personal creative avenues. Mr. Gehry's soft-spoken genius engaged me throughout. Fantastic.

Great insight into an incredibly creative architect.


Carol R.

No doubt the quality of things create feelings in the people who depend upon the thing. Whether mundane, or incredibly ornate, the thing becomes more or less valued for its worth. The drag is when the thing brings you down because it becomes obsolete and uninspiring. Like an aging woman or man, only truth will save them. In the end, the feelings of it all are more interesting than the thing.

A fellow student

The question about affordable design prompts me to report that I live in a remarkable mid-rise apartment building designed by Gentoku "George" Shimamoto, who is not longer living. Mr. Shimamoto, in addition to being a sensitive and talented architect, was a national hero, who led the Japanese interned in Utah during WWII to keep them as safe as he could and used his expertise to make their surroundings as decent as he could. After the war, he was among the leaders of an effort to obtain reparations for Japanese Americans interned during the war, which he finally obtained during the Reagan Administration. Mr. Shimamoto designed the mid-rise buildings Horizon House complex in Fort Lee NJ, which are remarkably affordable. The beauty and intelligence of their design has seen me and thousands of other people through many decades and seasons of our lives. The overall plan is inspired by Le Corbusier's Unite D'Habitation but there is an unmistakable Japanese bent to the mid-rise buildings that makes them wonderful, peaceful "machines for living." Listening to Mr. Gehry, I am thinking that he would appreciate the buildings if he visited and I commend him to do so. (He can also see the Bruce Graham towers in the middle of the complex and I would love to hear what he thinks of them too!)

Kevin H.

I particularly enjoyed Frank Gehry's advice to get to know our clients and the diversity they bring to our opportunity to work with them. The more we aspire to know about their culture, likes/dislikes and other aspirations, the more likely we are to increase our opportunity for additional work in the future. I guess my takeaway is this: As creators we can expand what we do not by need but by curiosity and respect for others...

Tarif B.

I was wondering: is there architecture for the poor? or beauty is for the rich only? Tarif

Behzad P.

The way MR Gehry approach the situation is interesting I am not architecture but I like his understanding of the history and the way he is expressing. Great Master class!!


Even as a Business Analyst, I'm finding Mr. Gehry's advice to dealing with clients quite helpful. It makes me wish I'd done a few things differently in the past, and certainly informs how I want to interact with future clients. I've always loved Frank Ghery's architecture, now I have a much deeper appreciation for his art as well as a great respect for his experience and wisdom. This is a really fun class. And beautifully shot, too.

Rocio T.

I'm getting more insight of how to live life than Architecture itself. Well, I'm not in the profession but I do take all the advice on how to deal with clients, take obstacles into account and how to deal with unpredictable happenings whether good or bad. He is a master at what he does and he's teaching from experience... and I'm learning a great deal. Thank you for putting this masterclass together.

Hai L.

“At least $1,000/sf”...”you have to discuss Really stupid stuff like...mechanical systems like heat, air condition, and ventilation”. I disagree with his wording as those un-seen elements are what really create comfort in the space. It may be that there is more science and less artistic boundaries to push. What the eye can experience and appreciate in the layout, the envelope, the materials, etc is arguably less significant than the body feels the whole time it is in a particular space. Case in point for anyone who’s been to a 500 seat lecture hall without adequate air circulation because the heating set point has been more than satisfied.

A fellow student

I completely agree. Just last week I had to cut ties and recommended a different professional to do what they were looking for; and had to remain firm. Learning to “let my ‘yes’ be yes and my ‘no’ be no”.

Graeme R.

This is true and useful in every creative profession. How I have wanted to call a client a philistine and a fool. My arrogance, not his or hers.