Frank Gehry – Humanizing Modernity

Due to all the buzz surrounding the almost simultaneous openings of the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Boulogne, Paris by Frank Gehry and an exhibition dedicated to his works at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in October 2014, more and more people are becoming interested in Mr. Gehry, a controversial “starchitect”, laureate of the Pritzker Architecture prize (the Nobel of architecture), who as obtained icon status.

Inventive and always experimenting with new and unorthodox materials (corrugated metal, chain links, titanium plates, etc) as well as combining them with cutting edge technologies, Gehry pushed the boundaries of architecture and challenged the identity of architectural forms. He has established a principle of unity and continuity between the architectural object and its environment and has built up his own architectural language based on the relationship of a building with its environment.

He constructs the buildings which are full of movement, feelings, that animate and give life to the cities that look so often lifeless and alien to people. As he once said, he wants “to break square, cold and clinical spaces imagined by modernists and minimalists”, making us reflect upon the fluidity of architectural forms.

With his goal of “humanisation of modernity”, Gehry tears, curves, opposes, tilts the facades and shakes the walls, moves the geometrical lines, plays with perspectives and breaks the conventions of building design. Gehry’s creations inspire all kinds of feelings, that are everything but “dull”: his work have been called radical, playful, organic, and sensual.

Frank Gehry was born in 1929 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in a Polish Jewish family and was given the name of Frank Owen Goldberg. In 1947 he moved with his parents to southern California and he studied at the University of Southern California and later at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

He established his Los Angeles practice in 1962, opening his own office in Santa Monica. Early in his career, he designed houses inspired by modern architects such as Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright and he acquired international recognition in the early 1980s.

Among the most renown buildings that Gehry has constructed are: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (1991 – 1997); Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, USA (1989 – 2003), a skyscraper 8 Spruce Street in New York, USA (2006 – 2010);the Nationale Nederlanden building in Prague (1992 – 1996), nicknamed as “Fred and Ginger”, or “Dancing house” and, of course, the before-mentioned Louis Vuitton Foundation built in Paris (2005 – 2014).

With this latest project in Paris, Gehry revives this city that he loves: he lived there one year in 1960 and the Foundation was his first project in Paris since he completed the American Center, now the Cinémathèque Française, rue de Bercy, in 1994. The Foundation looks like a gigantic glass ship clad , a boat with sails, a crystal palace and it evokes all kinds of analogies from Russian Constructivism (Vladimir Tatlins towers, for instance) to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and it’s considered as one of the most sophisticated buildings he has ever created

The Louis Vuitton Foundation is remarkable not only because of its architecture, but also because of its status, as it’s the first marriage of cultural ambition and private enterprise of this magnitude in Paris and there are relatively few private museums in France that have the possibility to reinforce a connection between private companies and advanced art and design, which contributes in promoting France itself, and notably, Paris as the world’s capital of modern art.

Often criticized for his extravagance, Gehry is rather pragmatic in his techniques, environmentally conscious and very attentive to the harmony between the building and the city as well as with its inhabitants. He is a living icon and a source of inspiration for myriads of young architects.

Avec des projets qui révèlent un équilibre subtil entre expérimentation et maturité du style, le “starchitect” Frank Gehry s’impose comme l’incarnation de l’architecture contemporaine. Il a en effet révolutionné le domaine en souhaitant “humaniser la modernité” et donner un peu de couleur à des villes souvent très froides et plates.

By Aleksandra Rozhkova

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