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Frank Gehry: From Toronto to LA

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Frank Gehry at centre with Paul Goldberger and Lisa Rochon Frank Gehry at centre with Paul Goldberger and Lisa Rochon

The world's most famous architect visited his home town of Toronto this past weekend, and what better place to make a public appearance than one of the buildings that has been transformed by his own genius?


Frank Gehry spoke before a capacity audience at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dec. 3. Now 87, he was asked 'how do you find the creative fire' to keep going strong? “I don't know what else to do,” he replied. “I think it's an emotional necessity that you become used to.”


He elaborated to say “I like the precarious feeling I'm not sure what I'm going to do next. I like the unknown. It's much more exciting looking for something else.”


Gehry now has a 140-person team to make his architectural vision a reality. “It's taken a long time to get the team behind me to create the delivery system.” And they are loyal. When Donald Trump was elected, Gehry said “people in my office were crying. They all said that if I relocate from the United States they would go with me.” French President Hollande has already offered Gehry a place for him to set up shop in France.


“I'm very worried about him,” Gehry said of Trump. “I heard Hitler's speeches on the radio, and it sounds similar to me. It's frightening.” Gehry changed his name from Goldberg many years ago, at the behest of his wife, who did not want to have such a Jewish-sounding name. That story and many others are detailed in a marvellous biography published last year by Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Goldberger.


He was in conversation with Gehry on stage at the AGO, who said the subtitle of the book could have been “Toronto to LA,” as it deals in depth with Gehry's early years in Toronto that set the stage for his great career in Los Angeles.


Goldberger, who has known the architect for 40 years, said to Gehry that criticism of his buildings as “just sculpture seems to drive you over the edge.” Gehry replied to great laughter: “That's when I become Trump.”


Gehry is best known for the museum in Bilbao in Spain, but he is very much looking forward to other projects. One of these is the Eisenhower Memorial for Washington DC. “He was considered the golf-playing president” at the time, but Gehry only realised later how much he did. “I literally fell in love with the topic of Ike.”


After some six years of controversy, the Memorial has received final approval and “is going to be built.” This will include Gehry's design for a “tapestry in stainless steel so it will last a hundred years.”


As for Toronto and its architecture of today, Gehry had some harsh words. “A lot of buildings are being built, but they don't say anything. You can make architecture with the same budget as you can make crappy buildings. Demand better buildings!”


Photo by C Cunningham






Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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