Conversations with Frank Gehry


[From Conversations with Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg. Gehry (Class of ’54) is a USC grad — like me!]

On the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright:

I studied every section drawing, model and building of Frank Lloyd Wright. Everything.

I went to see what he did in Oak Park. I went to see Robie House. I went to see Unity Temple. I studied Taliesin East and Taliesin West. I studied his planning ideas at Broadacre City and his ideas about the high-rise and his Mile High Building. I read everything I could about Wright’s life, and I visited the buildings in Marin County that were built after his death. I knew Frank Lloyd Wright.

On the competition to design Walt Disney Concert Hall, eventually won by Gehry:

My European colleagues thought I had the inside track, but it was quite the opposite. I was the long shot. In fact, in the beginning, I was invited by Ron Gother, the Disney family lawyer, to come to his office and meet with him. He told me that I should get out of the competition because it was a waste of time. They knew my work, and there was no way the family would have Walt Disney’s name on a building I designed. He actually said that.

On the possibility of perfection:

At the University of Southern California, they had cut in stone above the door a quote from Michelangelo which said, “A work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” I like that because it got me off the hook.

On architects not being recognized until late in life:

It takes a long time for people to trust you and for you to develop a unique language. You also have to develop a way of building that unique language so it doesn’t leak, so it can be done on budget and all of that. It takes a while. So by the time you get there, you’re in your late fifties or sixties. And that’s the tradition. Louis Kahn didn’t get anything until he was in his late fifties. Frank Lloyd Wright was the same. Corbusier. Mies van der Rohe. It’s just a profession that peaks later. And then it’s all over so fast.

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