Skip to main content
The Guggenheim Museum In Bilbao, Spain

The Magnificent Architectural Masterpieces of Frank Gehry

By rule of thumb, as architecture evolves, there are very few architects that ever become well-known for their works. One of the most famous was Frank Lloyd Wright and now there is Frank Gehry, who like him, has always marched to his own drum.

Born on February 28, 1929, in Toronto, Canada he is best known for his postmodern designs including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain. Gehry attended the University of Southern California and Harvard Graduate School for Design.

He has spent more than half-a-century going against the norm or common form of architecture and is considered a force of nature unto himself. He started his magnificent career working for Victor Gruen Associates and Pereira and Luckman out of Los Angeles. He then spent a short period of time working with Andre Remondet in Paris, France then returned to California and started his own firm. In 1989, he received the Pritzker Prize and since then does not seem to have any limits in his unique designs. Here’s what we think are his top architectural designs from around the world.

epm museum

The EMP Museum in Seattle, Washington

This was built from an idea in the head of Paul Allen who was the co-founder of Microsoft. The project was completed in 2000 and was inaugurated the “Experience Music Project”. Gehry framed the base of this space needle design to look like a steel and aluminum skin that flaps in the passing by of Seattle’s famous monorail.

The DZ Building In Berlin, Germany

The DZ Building In Berlin, Germany

This building was commissioned by DZ Bank & Hines to design a branch that would sit across from the triumphal arch. That said, under the local code in Berlin, it is prohibited that any building or structure outshine the Brandenburg Gate. Frank Gehry took on the project and designed a building with a limestone facade that was subtle. The building houses a stainless steel conference room which sits inside the atrium and is shaped like the head of a horse.

The Peter B. Lewis Building In Cleveland, Ohio

The Peter B. Lewis Building In Cleveland, Ohio

The exterior of this building is classic Gehry with ribbons of stainless steel and spreads out from its brick base. Since 2002, it is home to the Weatherhead School of Management at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The building’s open interior environment evokes a welcoming appeal.

The Richard B. Fisher Center In Annandale-On-Hudson, New York

The Richard B. Fisher Center In Annandale-On-Hudson, New York

Completed in 2001, Gehry’s stainless steel facade looks like a theatrical mask was created for the Performing Arts at the Bard College in New York. Even though he was criticized for not backing sustainability, he incorporated geothermal energy systems and many other green concepts into the building which has made the structure almost completely free of fossil fuels.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Walt Disney Concert Hall

In 1988, Gehry’s the Walt Disney Concert Hall was on a waiting list to build a new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It was finally opened in 2003 and everyone from critics to the public believed the building was well worth the wait. Because of Gehry’s love for sailing, the building’s exterior has expanses of stainless steel that billow over Grand Avenue and the interior is home to panels shaped of Douglas fir that line the auditorium.

The Guggenheim Museum In Bilbao, Spain

The Guggenheim Museum In Bilbao, Spain

Upon opening its doors in 1997, the Guggenheim Museum put Bilbao, Spain on the map and, to date, is one of the most visited sites around the world. The exhibition space is a massive elevation of glass, stone, and titanium that was structured to follow the contours of the Nervión River. Although the construction of this building went unnoticed by just about everyone, when the doors opened it was praised the “signal moment in the architectural culture”, This masterpiece secured Gehry’s place in architectural history.

Frank Gehry Davis Studio

The Davis Studio In Malibu, CA

Six years after starting his architecture firm, Frank Gehry had completed a very important project building the Davis Studio which was also Ron Davis’s home. Although this was not his first project, the design gave him incredible prestige with its slanted roof which made the house seem to rotate or twist. Presently, the home is owned by actor Patrick Dempsey and his family.

 Neuer Zollhof Complex In Dusseldorf, Germany

The Neuer Zollhof Complex In Dusseldorf, Germany

The Neuer Zollhof Complex is made up of 3 office buildings created by Frank Gehry that turned the waterfront into an amazing harbor that is now called the Media Harbour. These buildings became so popular, that this enticed many other commissions for other architects including Fumihiko Maki and Murphy. The 3 building,s making up Neuer Zollhof, were so popular they have landed a place in history as a spot on the board of the German Edition of Monopoly!

The Chiat/Day Complex In Venice, CA

The Chiat/Day Complex In Venice, CA

In 1991, Gehry built the Chiat/Day Complex for an advertising agency for their West Coast Branch. Due to its interesting shape, it is popularly known as the Binocular Building. The building sits on top 3 levels of underground parking garages that can hold up to 300 cars Entry to the parking areas is through the centrally located binoculars. The binoculars also have space for private conferences and research which all connect to the main conference room. There are also 2 rooms that following the shapes of the binoculars and the ceilings are covered with Gehry’s signature snake shape. These rooms were originally designed to serve as retreats. This complex was created in collaboration with Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The building was designed like a ship’s prow and there are 3 tree trunks that flank a sculpture. The main entrance to the building has three elements that complement the surrounding neighboring areas. This complex has become home to 500 Google employees since 2011.

Underrated Architectural Styles

There are a lot of architectural styles that we remember when we think about architecture and its history, like the Ancient Greek, Gothic, Renaissance, Modernist and Post-modern style. However, there are a lot of other styles that are not only important to the history of architecture, but also can be an important inspiration to contemporary architects.

Here we present you six of these styles. They appear based only on chronological order.

ACHAEMENIAN IMPERIAL STYLE
The Achaemenian Imperial Style was the current style of the Persian Empire when it was ruled by the Achaemenian kings (from Cyrus the Great and Xerxes I to Darius III). There are only a few traces of what was built during this period of the Persian history, basically few columns and some bas-relief. However, this style still influences the contemporary Iranian architecture, like the Dariush Grand Hotel, in Kish Island, made by Hossein Sabet. The most famous structure of that style is the Apadana, in Persepolis. It was built between the 6th and 5th century B.C.

ANCIENT ISLAM
The Ancient Islam style started when Muhammad founded the Al-Haram Mosque or The Great Mosque of Mecca (630 A.C.) and ended when the Mongols destroyed the capital of Baghdad (1258 A.C.). This style heavily influenced Portuguese, Spanish and the Latin American colonial architecture, since the Muslin occupied Portugal and Spain during part of the medieval period. One of the most beautiful buildings of this style is the Prophet Mosque, in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

SACRED INDIAN STYLE
The first centuries of the second millennium saw a burst of Indian Sacred Architecture. From about 1000 A.C. to 1260, India became a strong country that wanted to establish itself as a superpower. To do this, part of its kings started to built temples to Hindu Gods. These temples follow the conceptual design of a combination of edicts, making it look like a series of fractal. The actual Indian Sacred Style is composed by the Valabhi, Phamsana, Latina, Sekhari and Bhumija styles. One of the greatest examples of the Indian Sacred Architecture is the Udayeshvara Temple, a temple made in the Bhumija style.

NEOGREEK
The Neogreek style was a revival style that appeared in Europe in the middle of the 18th century, after the Ottoman Empire lost the control of Greece and the works of James Stuart and Nicholas Revett about the ancient Greek art and architecture was released. It was one of the first revival style, but it didn’t earn enough recognition due to an “anti-greek” opposition made by some important architects of the period and due to the rise of the Neoclassical and the Gothic Revival style. However, it was still a strong style in Scotland until the late 1870’s, mainly because of the works of Alexander “Greek” Thomson in Glasgow, and in Germany, with the works of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. One of the most important work in this style is the Bank of England in London, made by Sir John Soane.

MEIJI STYLE
The Meiji Style is the style adopted by Japan during the period it started to modernize its country. In 1868, the Meiji Emperor started a program to modernize and industrialize its country. To make this, he encouraged the study of European architecture and engineering. On the first few years of this renovation, the Emperor hired a lot of European architects to work in Japan. However, In the early 1890’s, a lot of Japanese architects started to come from university, replacing the foreigners. This style is remembered because of its cultural hybridity and to be the first ones to use reinforced concrete in a Japanese architecture. One of the greatest examples of this architecture style is the Tokyo National Museum, made by Jin Watanabe.

PETITE ARCHITECTURE
The Petite Architecture is a style of contemporary architecture that first appeared in the early 1930’s in France. The idea was to build little, petite, houses that could be taken on trips. The first house that was done thinking in these concepts was the Bivouac Shelter, by Charlotte Perriand. After 50 years, the Petite Architecture Style gained a new breath, being adopted by architects in Japan, were it earned a more technological approach. The Japanese architects abandoned the mobile approach and used the Petite approach to build houses on small lands on Japanese metropolis. From the Japanese branch, one example is the Small House in Tokyo, made by Kazuyo Sejima.

Golden and Silver Ratio in Architecture

Among history, artist, designers and architects used some mathematical ratios and equations to help them with their work. Between those ratios one got famous in western tradition and other got famous in the East.

The one that got famous in the West is called golden ratio. This mathematical ratio is believed to be some kind of divine proportion (as called by Paciolli and Da Vinci in their “De Divina Proportione”[1]) that regulate the form of natural things and the human body. We can see the use of the golden ratio in the Euclid’s Elements[2], in the Renaissance art and architecture and even in modern architecture. The other that got renowned in East is called silver ratio or Japanese ratio (“Yamato-hi” for Japanese). They used the silver ratio in Buddha statues, in architecture and in anime characters, like Doraemon.

 Doraemon

Doraemon[3]

 

Each of those ratios are defined by a geometrical relation. The golden ratio is defined by dividing a section of line in two parts, part a and part b, in a way that the total length of the line (a+b) divided by the greater segment (a) is equal to the division between the two new segments (a and b) as we can see in the equation in the side and the image below, resuming: . The value of this ratio is always an irrational number that we round to 1.618. The silver ratio is quite similar, however, instead of being the total length of line (a+b) divided by the greater segment (a) that is equal to the division of the between the two segments (a and b), it’s the double of the greater segment added by the smaller segment (2a+b) divided by the greater segment (a) that is equal to the division of the between the two segments (a and b), resuming: . The value of this ratio is or, rounded, 1.414.

 

gold and silver ratios

Golden and silver ratio line[4]

 

Le Corbusier and the Golden Ratio

The famous architect Le Corbusier was one of the architects that believed and used the golden ratio in his works and advocates for its application in everyday life. To endorse the use of this ratio in any type of architectural work, interior design or product design, and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, he created what he calls “Modulor”.

modulor

Image 3 – Modulor[5]

a le Corbusier sketch

A Le Corbusier’s sketch with relation between heights and the Modulor with distances in cm[6]

 

The Modulor used the golden ratio to calculate relations between parts of the human body. For this, he used, for a base, a six-foot tall man (182 cm) with one of the arms raised. However, preserving the adequate proportions, anyone could transpose it to make it work with people that are taller or smaller than the one Le Corbusier used in the Modulor. Based on this, an architect or a designer could know the best height and angle to put or to better design some furniture, doors, windows and even door handles.

One example of Le Corbusier’s architecture project designed with the help of the golden ratio is the United Nations Secretariat Building. In this building design, Le Corbusier worked with Oscar Niemeyer. Niemeyer is a famous Brazilian architect that were heavily influenced by Le Corbusier since he came to Brazil in 1935 to help Lúcio Costa (another Brazilian architect and also professor at Rio de Janeiro Federal University) and his students to design a Modernist building to the local government and teach Modernist urbanism to them. Being Niemeyer one of Costas’ student, he also learned a lot from Le Corbusier. After this, Niemeyer developed his own language, but still was influenced by what he learned from Le Corbusier.

On the building they designed together, we can see golden rectangles in the façade. We also can see the golden proportion being used in the window configuration of the building and, according to the website The Golden Number[7], we can also see the use of the golden ratio in the front entrance of the building and in the interior floor plans.

UN Secretariat Building and Golden Rectangles[8]

 

UM Secretariat Window Configuration[9]

 

The silver ratio in japanese architecture

In Japan they don’t believe much in the use of the Golden Ratio on design. To them, the use of the Silver Ratio create a design that is more beautiful and serene than the Divine Proportion. Since the Silver Ratio derives a smaller proportion (1.414), the objects that are done based on it are closer to a square than the ones done based on the western proportion.

One famous example of the use of the silver ratio is the Horyu-ji Temple in Ikagura, Nara Prefecture, Japan. This temple is a Buddhist temple with one of the oldest wooden building of the world. As we can see in the image below, the relation between the ground floor of the left building and its second floor is 1.414, and the relation between the first roof of the right floor and its last roof is also 1.414, the valor of the silver ratio.

 

Horyu-ji

Horyu-ji Temple with Pagoda[10]

 

As happened with our ratio, they were more used in the past, but we can also see contemporary works that used it, like the Tokyo Skytree. The Tokyo Skytree is one of the world’s tallest tower, having two observatories and a digital broadcasting antenna at the top. According to the image bellow, we can see a silver ratio relation between the distance of the floor to the second observatory and the distance between the floor and the top of the tower.

 

tokyo sky tree

Tokyo Skytree[11]

 

Today, neither of the two proportions is seen as a divine relation or a design rule, but we can still see projects that used them as a way to create a guidance or a feeling of harmony and serenity.

 

[1] PACIOLLI, Luca; DA VINCI, Leonardo. 2014. De Divina Proportione (On the Divine Proportion): Facsimile in Full Color of the Original Version of 1509. USA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

[2] EUCLID. 2017. Euclid’s Elements. Kindle edition. USA: LRP.

[3] EPIC RAP BATTLES OF CARTOONS WIKI. “Doraemon”. Retrieved June 07, 2018 (http://epic-rap-battles-of-cartoons.wikia.com/wiki/Doraemon).

[4] WIKIPEDIA. 2007. “Golden Ratio”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio).

[5] THE GOLDEN RATIO. “Le Corbusier”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://divinumproportione.weebly.com/le-corbusier-and-modulor.html).

[6] ICON. “Modulor Man by Le Corbusier”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://www.iconeye.com/opinion/icon-of-the-month/item/3815-modulor-man-by-le-corbusier).

[7] THE GOLDEN NUMBER. “The UN Secretariat Building, Le Corbusier and the Golden Ratio”. Retrieved June 07, 2018 (https://www.goldennumber.net/un-secretariat-building-golden-ratio-architecture/).

[8] THE GOLDEN NUMBER. “Phi and the Golden Section in Architecture”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://www.goldennumber.net/architecture/).

[9] THE GOLDEN NUMBER. “Phi and the Golden Section in Architecture”. Retrieved June 06, 2018 (https://www.goldennumber.net/architecture/).

[10] FANCLIP. “キティーちゃんの顔バランス。そうだったのか!!「白銀比」「黄金比」の話”. Retrieved June 08, 2018 (https://www.fanclip.jp/blog/archives/614)

[11] FANCLIP. “キティーちゃんの顔バランス。そうだったのか!!「白銀比」「黄金比」の話”. Retrieved June 08, 2018 (https://www.fanclip.jp/blog/archives/614)