The man who comes in our mind as we speak of Deconstructivism, Bilbao Effect, Walt Disney Concert Hall, is the Canadian architect, Frank Gehry. His works are a voice against the conventional expectations from architecture by defying the norms of an existing style and an effort to move ahead with time.
On being asked about his fish-inspired works, he said “It was by accident I got into the fish image”. His colleagues were recreating Greek Temples and thus, he said “Three hundred million years before man was fish….if you gotta go back, and you’re insecure about going forward…go back three hundred million years ago. Why are you stopping at the Greeks? So, I started drawing fish in my sketchbook, and then I started to realize that there was something in it.”
Apart from producing the well-known titanium-clad works, the 1989 Pritzker Laureate has given the world some lesser-known but equally state-of-art works in other fields of design and pushed the envelope at different scales and industries.
1. Bent Wood Collection
Though lesser known amongst his other celebrated works, Gehry started producing the Easy Edges line from the year 1969 to 1973, along with his earlier built projects and went on to design several pieces including the Bent Wood Collection with Knoll in 1992.
He had earlier experimented with the corrugated, unfinished texture of cardboard, for the Easy Edges collection, the Contour Chair, and the Experimental Edges by utilizing the compressive strength of the material when used in layers and to create certain visual effects.
However, Bent Wood Collection marked the change of material and texture by using bent wood as suggested by the name, that gave soft curves and smooth finishes. The structure caters to the strength as well as the aesthetics of the furniture through the lightweight, slender wood strips.
Yet again, Gehry’s work was a reaction against the general expectations of the furniture market where he used material to give a light, springy effect on contrary to the thick, heavy main structure in response to stable furniture.
2. Set Design for Don Giovanni
Disney Concert Hall showed the performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamelin 2012. The opera set was designed by none other than the architect of the concert hall itself, Frank Gehry.
The story which revolves around the life of a nobleman and his eventual downfall for his wrongdoings had a backdrop of heavily layered crumbled paper. It created a neutral textured setting for the colorful and detailed costumes by Rodarte.
The “moving still-life on the stage” had moveable platforms to occupy the center of the stage where the team scrunched around 80 rolls that were 9-foot-wide to make the molds.
He also modified the placement of the orchestra and created a layout that could bring the audience and the soloists closer for a more intimate connection.
LA Philharmonic presented the other two operas with Jean Nouvel designing the set for Marriage of Figaro in 2013 and Zaha Hadid for the Cosi Fan Tutte in 2014.
3. New Orleans’ Duplex
In 2012, Make It Right foundation announced the completion of a duplex residence, designed by Frank Gehry in New Orleans. The non-profit foundation was established by the Hollywood actor, Brad Pitt to aid the New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, through environmentally friendly rebuilding in 2007.
Gehry was one of the 21 architects who contributed towards the cause. The 1780 square foot duplex is equipped with solar modules that double as a waterproof canopy, gauge metal roofs for the absorption of lesser heat, and other incentives making it a LEED Platinum home.
Gehry had designed the building that is vernacular and historically, culturally responsive. The colors of the building have been chosen by the owners and follows the Cradle to Cradle method where materials are safe and can be reused along with safe drinking water and continuous improvement.
However, in 2015, the foundation faced a lawsuit regarding several issues, one of which was their failure to solve the maintenance issues of the residences. Nevertheless, the project was a bold step in response to a crisis-hit region.
Foggy, a play on the acronym of the name Frank Owen Gehry, is the first sailing yacht designed by Gehry with developer friend, Richard Cohen and naval architect, German Frers.
The yacht, completed in 2015, explores cold-mold construction with carbon fiber technology, titanium details and hundreds of individual pieces of glass inserts, making a sailing experience as unique as his buildings.
The glass blocks supported by carbon fiber, glimmer on the water, adding life to Foggy. Every material and component starting from cleats to doorknobs and showerhead has a story. The heart of the story is, however, the saloon that sports soft furnishing and psychedelically colorful carpet created by Joyce Shin, Gehry’s daughter-in-law.
It has indeed set an example by expanding the horizons of craftsmanship and the extent to which characteristics of a material can be molded with the technical aspects of a sailing structure.
5. World Cup of Hockey trophy, 2016
After designing the World Cup Trophy in 2004, Gehry redesigned it after 12 years for the tournament in 2016. He shared his love for hockey through this labor of love that has been designed with a precision that is equally given to his buildings, from the sculptural form to the way it should be lifted on the ice.
It consists of a stainless-steel crown, body, and base with an acrylic shell to interpret the emotions around a traditional trophy in a contemporary way. While steel imparts stability, durability, and timelessness, acrylic is used for transparency, weight, and its response towards UV light over time.
It showcases the elegance and toughness of the sport along with the skills and commitment that are required in a winning team.
He has also designed products like the bottle forWyborowa Vodka, jewelry line for Tiffany and Co., and developed the Digital Project Software for innovation in architectural software. These and many other works bring art and architecture under one realm.
Despite the criticism received, a closer look suggests that his works are a response to the current and future generation, with equal respect for the past and the present lives of the people and their surroundings.