chapter  7
30 Pages

Frank Gehry: Roong, Wrapping, and Wrapping the Roof

A participant in the MoMA 1988 “Deconstructivist Architecture” exhibition, Frank Gehry has come a long way, securing both institutional and public support. He is one of the few contemporary architects with little interest in theorizing his own work, yet he shares the neo-avant-garde’s tendency to renew architecture by borrowing from conceptual art. He says about his collaboration with artists and sculptors: “I have [been] very involved with their work; I think a lot of my ideas have grown out of it, and that there has been some … give and take.”2 During his collaboration with Richard Serra, Gehry noticed the expressive potential of the sh. In a biographical note he recalls: “Every Thursday through much of my childhood we would go to the Jewish market, we’d buy a live carp, we’d take it home … we’d put it in the bathtub and I would play with this … sh for a day … until she killed it and made gelte sh.” In the anti-Semitism that prevailed during Gehry’s youth, the architect was given the ironic nickname “Fish” by “his tormentors, presumably to suggest bad odor, and he would not realize until much later that ‘sh’ was a Christian symbol. His ambivalent identity with the image, however, would last until exorcised in his sh sculptures of the 1980s.”3 Germano Celant also notes similarities between Gehry’s work and Claes Oldenburg. According to him,

Still, according to Francesco Dal Co, Gehry has not been merely a passive recipient of ideas generated by contemporary artists. Rather, he “understands that it is possible to ‘occupy’ with architecture, the spaces that art is no longer able to dominate, assigning to architectural design the task of taking the experiments of

the historical avant-gardes to their extreme consequence.”5 Throughout his long years of practice Gehry has pursued a self-imposed challenge: to avoid leaving any kind of personal signature on his work. He has taken every commission as an opportunity to generate something dierent. With the Disney Concert Hall, and later with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, however, he has introduced a major note into the noisy debates on architectural theory and practice.