A career retrospective for one of LA’s most famous citizens, Frank Gehry opens today at LACMA, providing a comprehensive look at his genre-bending career. The show debuted a year ago at Paris’ Pompidou Center in conjunction with the opening of the Louis Vuitton Foundation museum, one of the architect’s most recent commissions. Gehry, who attended the opening of LACMA’s show this past week, is a spry, energetic presence whose name conjures images of the beloved sweep of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Guggenheim Bilbao, and whose LA roots stretch back decades. Think of the binoculars outside the old Chiat Day building in Venice, or his home on an unassuming street in Santa Monica. Even now, at 86, he runs a bustling studio in Playa Vista that is producing vibrant work, such as several pro-bono building projects around LA and the new Facebook campus (see below). He has even been providing deep thinking on the master plan for the LA River revitalization.
In Gehry’s own words: “Los Angeles and Urbanism are at the heart of this exhibit. The city and the people that make them have anchored my work through the years. I strive to create buildings that are defined by the community that surrounds them and reflect the values and the activities of the people who will inhabit them.”
Not a bad time to do your homework on Frank Gehry, we say. We have selected a few resources to help offer families a way to learn more about this work (see below). It’s not hard to get kids to “ooh” and “ahh” about the unconventional shapes and lustrous surfaces of much of Gehry’s work, offering everyone a chance to think about architectural design and how buildings interact with communities and people.
First, take in the show at LACMA.
My absolute favorite part of the show is a wall-sized photograph of the interior of Gehry’s Partners’s studio. The image depicts dozens of architectural models arranged in pristine fashion with various architects placed into the static scene. The photo, which is actually dozens of images stitched together digitally) offers a Hockney-esque view of designers at work, and if you spin around the cavernous room at LACMA, you’ll be able to see several of the same models from the studio on display in the museum.
The experience provides insight into about how buildings get dreamt up — kids can get up close and personal with the tools of the trade – from sketches to models – and get as ones of how builders visualize the process of creating a home, a building, or even an organically connected city block.
Here is Christopher Hawthorne’s review of the Gehry retrospective when it debuted in Paris last year with interesting commentary about the close ties between Gehry and LACMA. (Gehry has designed many exhibits for the museum, and enjoys a close relationship with this show’s curator, Stephanie Barron).
Here is a model of Gehry’s home in Santa Monica and a photograph of the house where he and his family reside.
It’s interesting that Gehry’s design for the just opened Facebook campus is very different (flat with acres of green rooftop gardens) from what one might expect, an example of how Gehry has continued to evolve. Here is the Facebook model (below) and Christopher Hawthorne’s review of the building, with photos, which he calls “a meeting of like minds between Frank Gehry, Mark Zuckerberg.” Think a guy who likes to build with cardboard, and a guy whose wardrobe consists of hooded sweatshirts and jeans.
Next, a global glimpse of Gehry structures:
To remind yourself of some of Gehry’s most impressive commissions, take as stroll through this virtual neighborhood (an Architectural Digest online gallery) and admire the innovative and refreshing shapes of his most iconic work.
Gehry has been working for free for several years to help develop a master plan to make over the 51 miles of LA River that flow through the Southland. The plan, which received a lot of press last month when unveiled, takes into consideration both environmental and public health issues as it strives to unify the communities that Gehry has long talked about as the inspiration for his structures.
Best, take a tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall:
Tour the Walt Disney Concert Hall – Self-guided audio tours (which we LOVE) and guided tours of Walt Disney Concert Hall are offered by the Music Center most days. All tours are an hour long and begin in the Grand Avenue Lobby of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Finally, explore these other resources:
Sydney Pollock’s documentary for PBS American Masters: Sketches of Frank Gehry (instant video link). A great introduction for tweens or teens interested in learning more about the creative process.
Frank O. Gehry: Outside In: DK Publishing – great for kids who want to be introduced to architecture