In his latest book, Pulitzer prize-winning architectural critic Paul Goldberger chronicles Frank Gehry’s rise to distinction as the most acclaimed architect of our time. Goldberger’s biography is an engaging exploration of the life and work of a skilled artist who has transformed modern architecture through his groundbreaking use of materials, design and form.
Gehry and architectural software arrived about the same time in history. With new designs made possible only through the use of technology, Gehry, almost single-handedly, has established the architectural environment of the 21st century.
“The computer, Frank realized, could be the tool that freed him from limits.” From the use of early French aerospace technology to utilizing the latest computer software, Gehry has designed structures previously considered impossible to construct.
There are many books written about Gehry’s architecture, but Goldberger’s book goes the second mile and describes the famous architect’s personal life in detail. The reader is introduced to his Jewish immigrant family who takes up residence in Toronto. The importance of playtime with his grandmother is explained as well as his move to Los Angeles in 1947 when he was 18.
“Building Art” not only presents Gehry’s work, but also how it relates to his whole life story. His years in the Army and at Harvard, his extended relationship with his psychiatrist, his two marriages and four children, all affected his architectural perspective. In a nuanced exploration of Gehry’s life and work, Goldberger journeys with the reader through a wide-ranging, yet intimate portrayal of this creative genius.
Frank Gehry’s first building to receive international attention was the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which opened in Spain in 1997. Critics called it “a stunner,” “a technical tour de force,” and “a new example for city building.” His most famous building in the United States is the undulating Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles distinguished by its billowing sails.
At 86, Gehry has several major buildings on the drawing board and under construction. The largest current project is the Mirvish Gehry venture in Toronto which, when completed, will be his largest building yet.
A fascinating secondary component of the book is an inside view of the networking and personality issues that characteristically determine what buildings actually are erected. Who has the money to pay for a major project and their architectural taste is often the single deciding factor on what gets built. Dining and wining patrons is an essential part of the process of building a landmark.
Paul Goldberger spent 15 years as the architecture critic for “The New Yorker.” He began his career at the “New York Times” where he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished architectural criticism. He is the author of many books, most recently “Why Architecture Matters.” He currently teaches at The New School and lectures widely. His biography on Gehry is warm and appealing, factual and philosophical. The photographs and illustrations aid in appreciating Gehry’s unique designs and the atypical materials he chooses.