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  • Writer's pictureLauren Brown

Architect Inspiration: Frank Gehry

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Entrance by Frank Gehry
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

It was not until my High School days that I began exploring my artistic abilities and educating myself with art and architecture. I grew up going to private Catholic school, so my artistic side was never something that was embraced or nurtured. As I spent time learning more about art and architecture, I quickly became increasingly fascinated with the innovative works of Frank Gehry.

Frank Gehry is known for his postmodern architectural design style. His bold designs, creative use of materials, and out of the box thinking has always inspired me. Although his name became known in LA in the early 1970's for his cardboard furniture line "Easy Edges", his primary interest was always building not furniture design. In 1991, Gehry was selected to design and build the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Gehry always incorporated utilitarian materials into his designs, but this was the first structure he clad in Titanium. The architect chose the cladding, after ruling out other materials, as he saw how the Titanium reacted after he nailed it to a telephone pole outside his office. This unique use of metal cladding has become a known characteristic of the architect's work. The titanium is the thickness of about three sheets of notebook paper but is stronger than brick. Quite astonishing! Gehry has an amazing portfolio of work, but the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has always been striking to me and is the architects most celebrated work.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

While I was in college studying art and Interior Design, there was a study abroad opportunity in Spain. When I saw that one of the cities was Bilbao, I knew I had to attend. We would be learning about an architect whom I was compelled by, I would have the opportunity to see his work, so I had to sign up for this experience. I was able to persuade my parents into sending me on this amazing (and costly!) trip. I signed up for this study abroad opportunity not knowing anyone else who would be traveling with my college. I remember it like it was yesterday, feeling nervous showing up to the airport not knowing anyone, not knowing who I would be sharing a room with for the duration of the trip. It was an unforgettable experience traveling around Spain and learning, I made some amazing bonds with friends that I still have today. Bilbao was my favorite city we stayed in, not only for the experience to see Frank Gehry's designed Guggenheim, but the city itself captivated me.

"You have freedom, so you have to make choices - and at the point when I make a choice, the building starts to look like a Frank Gehry building. It's a signature." Frank Gehry

MoPOP Seattle Entrance by Frank Gehry
Museum of Pop Culture - Seattle, Washington

Many years later my husband and I took a trip to Seattle. Neither of us had been and I had always wanted to go. We have some dear friends who live there whom we met in a small restaurant during a trip to Paris (that's a story for another blog!). We had a magnificent time in downtown Seattle exploring art, architecture, and museums. We visited Gehry's Museum of Pop Culture. The facade of the museum is constructed of stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles. At this point, it had been a number of years since I was in Spain, being able to experience his work had me enthralled all over again, just like that young version of myself was in High School.

The reflective nature of Gehry's use of material cladding, the undulating movement from the curvilinear design, the nonrepetitive geometries, and the organic twisted forms give energy and fluidity to their surrounding cityscapes. He is a true master in whimsical architectural design.

MoPOP Seattle with Monorail Running Through
Museum of Pop Culture - Seattle, Washington

All photography by Lauren Brown.

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