Prolific architect Frank Gehry is responsible for some of the world’s most distinctive buildings – such as Sydney’s own ‘paper bag’ building at the University of Technology – but not everyone is a fan of his out-there style.
In an age of efficiency and functionalism, Gehry has been called out for a perceived obsession with form to the detriment of function.
Gehry fans will counter that his signature flourishes are far from superfluous, and are in fact, intended to inform the practicality of a given space – just as Gehry (who collaborates on his designs with those who commission them) claims.
The common consensus is that Gehry sits somewhere between sculptor and architect. While known for his eye-popping exteriors, there are ways to adapt his unorthodox aesthetic for an eclectic interior style.
Iconic Gehry designs
Dancing House, Prague
Part of the Dancing House’s significance is the site on which it was built. It stands where a house was flattened by the bombing of Prague in 1945. The combination of static and dynamic elements symbolises the transition from communist Czechoslovakia to democracy in modern day Czech Republic. The building was completed in 1996 and currently plays host to offices, as well as an art gallery.
Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, Sydney
One of his newest works, this addition to UTS’ Business School was officially opened in 2015. It’s said to invoke elements of Anton Gaudi’s work in Barcelona.
The row of curved brick walls is punctuated by protruding rectangular windows – rigid functionalism forcing its escape through the smooth form that fights to suppress it. The building is named after the Chinese Australian businessman who donated $20 million to its construction.
Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
A landmark design, and perhaps Gehry’s most famous creation. It’s certainly the one that announced his arrival as a major player in architecture. The Guggenheim in Bilbao was completed in 1997, and sits on the bank of the Nervion River. It vaguely resembles the twisted hull of a ship, its metallic surface chameleonic, changing colour depending on the time of day.
Ray and Maria Stata Center, Boston
Completed in 2004, the Stata Center is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Boston. To call it eclectic is apt, though somehow insufficient. This is one of Gehry’s most fiercely debated works. Critics have derided it as ‘incomplete’ and chaotic to the point that it ‘ceases to be architecture.’ Whatever it is, it certainly isn’t boring.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Built as a tribute to Walt Disney’s lifelong commitment to the arts, the concert hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Again, we see Gehry’s penchant for bulky metal segments, and juxtaposing smooth curves with sharp jutting corners for maximum effect. The result? An experience reminiscent of an eccentric children’s slide. Fun fact: modifications had to be made to sections of the original exterior due to sunlight reflecting and overheating the homes of nearby residents.
Harnessing Gehry’s aesthetic at home
So what have we learnt? Persistent juxtaposition, not only of textures but of shapes, is key to Gehry’s architectural attractions. Smooth and sharp constantly vie for attention.
There’s also a recurring theme of altered states; structures appear damaged, partially warped, melted or crumpled like something out of a Salvador Dali painting. This marriage of dynamic and static elements keeps Gehry’s work feeling fresh, as though the shapes were moulded just moments before you arrived.
With this in mind, how can such an iconic structural style be appropriated indoors? Let’s take a look at how you can harness just a little of Gehry’s terrific talent at yours…
Looking for an homage to Gehry’s signature curves? The Replica Jorgen Moller Taburet M Stool is for you. Its simple ‘m’ arc is reminiscent of Gehry’s warp aesthetic. Similarly, the Replica Sori Yanagi Butterfly Stool fuses two swooped wooden panels together to form a stylish, symmetrical chair.
Turn the tables
The epitome of subtle swerves, the Replica Eric Pfeiffer Offi Mag Table is right at home among Gehry-inspired design – multifunctional, and a little off-the-wall. Another piece that plays with contrast is the Replica Isamu Noguchi Coffee Table, combining the influences of east and west with wood and glass juxtaposed for a striking modernist look.
The Replica John Brauer and Hans Falleboe Bin, with its eye-catching crumpled shape channels the ‘paper bag’ look of Sydney’s UTS building – a wastepaper bin that does a fine impression of its contents and an easy way to start your Gehry fan boy/girl journey.
In his own words….
“A lot of people don’t get it, but I design from the inside out so that the finished product looks inevitable somehow. I think it’s important to create spaces that people like to be in, that are humanistic.”