Frank Gehry buildings – deconstructive, spectacular and truly extraordinary
Frank Gehry buildings are spectacular and unusual. Broken geometries, uneven corners, walls that appear convex, or unusual materials such as corrugated iron and plywood characterise his designs, which are prime examples of deconstructivism. Frank Gehry buildings blur the line between art and architecture.
1. Gehry building in Prague: The Dancing House
The Dancing House in Prague is a prime example of how Gehry’s deconstructivist design language divides opinion across the world. Located in the historic quarter of the city centre, the building stands in stark contrast to the more traditional tourist attractions of Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral and the Old Town Square.
The 1996 building – the result of a partnership between Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic – is referred to by locals as “Ginger and Fred”, after famous dancers Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, who served as the inspiration for the leaning pair of corner towers, which resemble a dancing couple. The Dancing House is famous for its hallmark offset windows, twisted columns of concrete and the distorted overall look of the building. In spite of its “dancing” exterior appearance – the epitome of closeness and harmonious movement – the architects made a deliberate decision to keep the two parts of the building completely separate on the inside. Since its construction, locals have found a place in their hearts for the unusual addition to the historic cityscape, and the “dancers” have become a popular attraction in their own right.
2. Frank Gehry buildings in Germany: Neuer Zollhof in Duesseldorf
Gehry continued on his trajectory of sculptural building design in his proposals for the Neuer Zollhof building in Duesseldorf. The building, completed in 2003, is part of the redevelopment of the waterfront area, which features buildings by architects such as David Chipperfield and Steven Holl alongside Gehry’s creation. Gehry’s “building” is actually three separate deconstructivist buildings that come together to form a single aesthetic unit.
Each of the buildings is based on a different design and shape, and uses different materials: The central building was created in stainless steel so that the reflections of its counterparts would be visible in its façade. The Frank Gehry buildings at the Media Harbour have become must-see attractions for tourists and are among the most photographed pieces of architecture in the city.
3. Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
The collage-like character of architectural deconstructivism is a central element of Frank Gehry’s long-awaited Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The building was completed in 2003 as a tribute to Lillian B. Disney’s late husband Walt Disney, who was devoted to the arts and music scene in the city.
Gehry’s vision for the new concert hall was to build a communal space for the city in which all of its citizens would feel at home. The 2140-square-metre concert hall, which can accommodate up to 2265 guests, rises up from the ground like a stainless steel ship sailing the streets of LA, with the “sails” of the external walls bellowing outwards into the world.
4. Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein
Extraordinary furniture design needs to be displayed in an extraordinary setting – and it doesn’t get much more extraordinary than the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein. Now one of the world’s leading design museums, the Vitra building – for which Gehry designed the main museum and the associated offices – was the architect’s first commission in Europe.
The sculpturally curved hall constructed in white plaster and a titanium-zinc alloy is somewhat more restrained than Gehry’s other designs. Alongside Frank Gehry’s buildings, the Vitra site is also home to designs from other well-known architects, including a fire station by the late Zaha Hadid, another major proponent of deconstructivism. In the later stages of her career, Hadid adopted a design language characterised by curves, earning her the title of “the queen of curves”.
5. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
One of the buildings that propelled Frank Gehry to international fame is the Guggenheim Museum in the city of Bilbao in northern Spain. The museum of modern and contemporary art, which opened in 1997, is an iconic deconstructivist building. The oval-shaped building follows the contours of the Nervión river.
The titanium, lime sandstone and glass exterior lends a sculptural appearance to the building, which houses 19 galleries for contemporary art across 11,000 square metres of exhibition space; the design language of each of the galleries matches their contents. After four years of construction, the Guggenheim Museum is one of Gehry’s own personal highlights of his architectural career.
6. Arles: LUMA art and cultural centre
A total of 11,000 aluminium panels adorn the 56-metre-high exhibition tower at the new Luma art and cultural centre in Arles. Visible from afar, the tower rises from a glass cylindrical base and reaches up to the sky. Mirrored glass window boxes punctuate the aluminium façade, reflecting the surroundings and offering visitors beautiful views.
For the structure, Gehry looked to the city's history: The base is inspired by the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, and the tower is meant to recall the “Starry Night”, painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1889. The building is scheduled to open in June 2021.
7. Back to the roots: Towers of Toronto
With his latest project, Frank Gehry wants to return to his roots. He is planning two skyscrapers in his home city of Toronto. According to current plans, the design is made up of rectangular blocks that stack on top of each other and jut out at random angles. The lights and colours of the surroundings will be reflected in a mirrored façade.
The two skyscrapers in the centre of the city are set to be a mixed-use development, which will include residential, commercial and retail space. Canada's Ontario College of Art and Design University OCAD will also have new space here. At 298 metres, the taller of the towers will be the tallest structure Gehry has ever built.
Frank Gehry’s deconstructivist buildings have become major sites of architectural interest all over the world. The buildings make a lasting impression on those who get the opportunity to marvel at them in the flesh.
As many of Gehry’s buildings are open to the public, architecture fans are able to explore and discover his creations as the architect intended them to be experienced.