Frank Gehry, Closet Classicist

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Frank Gehry exploded architectural form in the 1970s, many designers have emulated him. But when critics have described as “Gehry-like” a building featuring plywood and chicken wire, or wavy aluminum, or lopsided walls, Gehry himself has tended to look puzzled, saying, I don’t see it, I don’t get the connection between their work and mine.

This response used to sound disingenuous to me — wasn’t the similarity obvious?! But after years of living in close proximity with a few of his designs, I think I’ve begun to understand — and appreciate — his work better, and now believe his true artistry lies in the way he uses tradition as much as breaks with it; the way he makes spaces harmonious for the user as much an expression of his own voice. And the thread leads right back to the ancients.

At a moment when Gehry is giving voice to very different Americas — the Eisenhower era and Facebook — I felt the topic worth exploring, and wrote this article for Artbound, based on interviews with Frank Gehry and alumnus Michael Maltzan, as well as Stuart Magruder, LA architect who has studied Gehry’s plans, that may also be aired an upcoming DnA.