This iconic residence is Frank Gehry’s own house. Originally an extension, Gehry designed and built an existing Dutch colonial style into his own style. In 1977, Frank Gehry bought a pink bungalow built in 1920 located in Santa Monica, California, and used a variety of materials for this house.
Project Name: Gehry Residence
Studio: Gehry Partners LLP
Architectural Style: Deconstructivism
Construction Year: 1978
Building Levels: G+1
Location: 1002 22nd Street, Santa Monica, California
Frank Owen Gehry remains one of the legendary architects of the contemporary era. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1954. After graduation, he worked in many fields unrelated to architecture, including his service in the US Army. He studied city planning at Harvard in 1956 but left before completing it. His first ever project was a private residence in 1957 for an old classmate Greg Walsh.
Most of his buildings remain world attractions. With Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Louis Vuitton Foundation, Gehry Residence, and many more of his works, he explored architectural styles such as modern architecture, postmodern architecture, deconstructivism, and reconstructivism, in a rather distinctive and eccentric way.
Gehry Residence, his private house, was a major boost to his career, despite the many controversies surrounding it. Another one of his notable works is the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Columbia.
Frank Gehry wanted to transform the house before he moved in with his wife. He made a bold decision to “balance the fragment and the whole, raw and refined, new and old”, striking up many controversies at that time. Gehry residence was against the “original deconstructivist aesthetics”, angering those who supported it.
Not only that, his neighbors opposed the idea of having such an unusual building in their neighborhood. Even so, the residence remains a classic architectural work. He explained the old structure as “a dumb little house with charm”.
“I loved the idea of leaving the house intact. I came up with the idea of building a new home. We were told there were ghosts in the house. I decided they were ghosts of cubism. Windows… I wanted to make them look like they’re dragging. At night, since the glass is tilted, reflect light… So when you are sitting at this table all these cars are passing by, you see the moon in the wrong place… the moon is there but it reflects here and you think it’s there and do not know where the hell are you.” – Frank Gehry
Franks Gehry also explains: “Armed with very little money I decided to build a new house around the old and try to maintain a tension between the two, making one define the other, and making them feel that the old house was intact within the new, from the outside and the inside. These were the basic objectives.”
While remodeling the Dutch colonial residence, Gehry experimented with materials such as metal, plywood, chain link fencing, and wood framing. Gehry wrapped the residence with corrugated aluminum similar to airplane hangars, which accentuates the corners with convex wood-frame tilted skylights. The angled gabled roof clad in the metal glows almost pink at dusk.
Also, he used chain link fencing to connect the new metal sheet on the exterior of the second story to the old pink shingles. He actually kept the existing old house in a conventional manner. Gehry decided to leave the Dutch house intact and build the new house around it. So, for that to be done, he wrapped around three sides of the old house on the ground floor and extended the house towards the streets. That left the exterior of the old house practically untouched.
The interior was changed a lot. In some places, the plaster coating was stripped to reveal the framing by exposing the joists and studs. Gehry renovated it in accordance with the other side to show both the old and new elements.
The salient angles of the exterior make the entrance barely visible. The view of the house from the house is mostly surrounded by trees that give privacy, closing all the gaps above eye level. However, the only exception is the window that overlooks the garden.
In 1992, Gehry remodeled his residence according to his increasing needs. His family needed more rooms and better privacy as his children grew up. So, he turned the garage into a guest room and a gaming room. He also added a swimming pool. Furthermore, Gehry renewed the wooden structure covering the whole house that was missing some details from the first construction.
Even though Frank Gehry’s works have evolved considerably since its construction, Gehry Residence remains a significant landmark in architectural history to this day. This structure is one of the best examples of modern and traditional elements in one place.
Not only was this project a kick-start in Gehry’s career, but it is also a symbol of his contribution to the history of architectural design. In 2012, Frank Gehry was awarded by The American Institute of Architects for the completion of twenty-five years of the residence.