Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Take Aways From 8 Spruce Street

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 04:41 min

Frank's high profile New York City highrise began as a study of movement. Learn how Frank collaborated with curtain wall experts to create 'Bernini folds' from metal panels.

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Topics include: Begin with the basic program • Explore the art of the curtain wall


When you're meeting with the client, first talk about their reality, and then show them what the changes from that you're proposing and what the delta of costs will be and have them think through whether that's a valuable thing or not. This is a building in New York on 8th Spruce Street. We started with very blocky realities. We asked the client to hire the architect who does all the buildings, standard apartment buildings in New York to make a model of what would be the cheapest and most straightforward and what they would build for any client, if they were hired. And so they gave us this. So that gives us a baseline. We know that that-- how much that costs. We know that it has the program. We know that it's buildable, and we know that it solves everybody's problem. We just know that it's not anything worth building, because they're-- they've already built 100 of them. I think normally architects would do this and want to stop here. Since we were who we were, we continued to make models. Now if you go to New York, a lot of the lower buildings have bay windows, and they're nice. You sit in a-- you go to a room. You go out-- go toward the bay window, and all of a sudden you're in space right. And you sit down, and you feel like you're outside, and you're closer to the world around you. So we decided to play with the bay window, and by adding the bay window as a an element that somebody would like and would maybe pay extra for, we could afford to put some money toward. We could rationalize doing what we were doing. Since the floor plans were duplicates going out, if you put the bay window in the same place in each room, the Exterior would have a line that would read, a bump that would stick out and would be continuous. And we didn't want to do that. So we wanted to have the fabric look like it was blowing in the wind. For this building, as I mentioned earlier, we were trying to come up with a language that resonated with the older buildings around us. And we were also trying to get some feeling into the building by the curtain-- with the curtain wall that it would have a humanity to it that those faceless buildings that are all over the world don't have. There was a young lady working in my office who was a Princeton graduate, very smart young gal. And I said to her-- she was working on this model-- and I said, do you know the difference between Bernini curves and Michelangelo curves? And she said, yes. And so I said, could you do Bernini curves on the facade at this scale? And the difference is that Michelangelo curves are soft, and Bernini curves are, kind of, edgy. So if you see the Santa Teresa sculpture, one of the best ones by Bernini, that's an example of what I'm talking about. She made that maquette, and then we blew it up and used that. The building does have a humanity character to it. People tell me they like that,...

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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