Frank Gehry: The architectural virtuoso continues to inspire and enrich lives
Frank Gehry is profiled in our 2023 magazine, “Our People, Our Places.” Because it was a private interview, we are reprinting the story for our readers to enjoy.
With its expansive silver facade that dances like musical notes across the Los Angeles skyline, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is perhaps the most famous and architecturally significant building in the city, if not the country — and perhaps the world.
The hall was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, and is considered one of the best acoustic venues ever built.
Angelenos certainly feel proud to have the Gehry-designed masterpiece in town. After an interview with the architect, Gehry also expressed his pleasure that the hall has become the shining star that it is now.
Is it his architectural achievement that he is proudest of? Jerry objects like a proud father to many.
“That’s like asking someone who their favorite child is! Having said that, the Walt Disney Concert Hall was a huge change in my own life. It was a long process, and the first part of it was very painful for me personally. After a hiatus of several years, the project returned to Internet. “It was an absolute pleasure working with so many people who helped bring it back to life,” Jerry said.
Home to the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the hall’s genesis began in 1987 with a $50 million gift from Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, for a concert venue in honor of her husband’s dedication to the arts.
As Gehry alluded to, the project faced challenges, some political, and the project closed in 1994. But like a phoenix rising, the steel structure took flight with support from public and private donors and was eventually opened in 2003.
“I have never seen Los Angeles rally with such enthusiasm around the Concert Hall. People from every level of government, foundations and private donors rushed to help build the hall. Los Angeles County and our then-Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky went to great lengths to get the building built,” said Gehry. : “I go to the hall often, and I am always grateful to see so many donor names throughout the building.”
Jerry and Zev Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles County supervisor, have known and admired each other for years.
“I’ve known Jerry for decades,” Yaroslavsky said. “Our relationship really strengthened during the Walt Disney Concert Hall project. I supported his role as architect. I was the Board of Supervisor’s representative on the Disney Hall Project Committee, and we all worked together to get this done,” Yaroslavsky added.
With seating for 2,265 people, the interior of the auditorium is paneled in Douglas fir, emitting a warm glow into the expansive room. The impressive organ stands at the front of the hall, with a spiral of 6,134 stem-like pipes extending towards the steel ceiling. The organ is a collaboration between Jerry and Manuel J. Rosales, a Los Angeles-based organ designer. Jerry presented a concept that looks like a bunch of flowers emerging from the ground. Rosales commissioned European organ builder Casper von Glatter-Goetz to manufacture and install the organ. The end result, which Jerry refers to as “french fries,” culminates in a sonic masterpiece.
Enjoying the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance at Disney Concert Hall is the culmination of Jerry’s brilliant design, Yasuhisa Toyota’s vocal talents and Gustavo Dudamel’s musical prowess. With the orchestra seated and the audience quieted, conductor Dudamel took the stage and ordered the violinists to point their bows in unison followed by oboe, flute, cello and drum. And the party begins.
Frank Gehry was born Frank Owen Goldberg on February 28, 1929, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In 1947, Jerry and his family immigrated to Los Angeles, where he studied architecture at the University of Southern California and city planning at Harvard University. During that period he changed his name. After working for several architectural firms, including those of Victor Gruen in Los Angeles and André Raymondet in Paris, he founded his own firm, Frank O. Geary & Co., in 1962, and later Geary Partners in 2002.
As a child, he was inspired by the people he surrounded himself with, such as his grandmother who encouraged his creativity by using items from his grandfather’s hardware store to design imaginative buildings. When he went to college, his peers and artists influenced the designer.
“I was embraced by artists from the beginning of my career. I grew up with them and their process, which was more intuitive, rigorous and iterative than that of the architects of the time.
Jerry continues to be inspired by his contemporaries, past and present.
“I look at the history of art and architecture and definitely find inspiration from the great artists of the past like Bernini and Borromini and my contemporaries like Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Kenny Price, Billy Al Bengston — I could go on and on,” Gehry continued. .
“As for young architects, I have a lot of young talent in my office. We’ve developed an amazing design team, which I think we’re known for, but we have an equally talented art/construction team. The leadership group has been with me for over 25 years, and we’ve built a lot Of buildings together. They are about the business – its art and the craft. They know how to design and build with excellence. They know how to stick to budgets, collaborate with clients, and create innovative yet human spaces.
In fact, Gehry’s team’s many accomplishments include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, the Weissman Museum of Art in Minneapolis, and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, among others. However, Jerry, isn’t resting on his laurels. He leads his team forward with passion and integrity.
“When I look at other firms doing business today, some of the young architects, in my opinion, are ambitious at the expense of their architecture. With my team, their heads are screwed straight. I’m very lucky to have this group of architects to play with,” said Gerry. “.
In keeping with this spirit, another major project flows from his creative mind—the revitalization of the 51-mile-long Los Angeles River. It’s a massive undertaking, revitalizing miles of space and turning them into an urban haven.
“The Los Angeles River is an exciting 51-mile thoroughfare that manages flood control in Los Angeles County. My hypothesis was that if the flood control portion of it could be managed in a tunnel, the 51 miles could be turned into a great tunnel.” A landscape connector of the entire province, connecting rich and poor neighborhoods in the center of the cities it passes through.
Once again, Yaroslavsky and Gehry meet at the headwaters, where the then superintendent helps secure the necessary funding. In fact, the half-mile trail located in Studio City is called the Zev Yaroslavsky LA River Greenway Trail. The trail returns its original habitat to the river’s edge and reintegrates the river into the urban San Fernando Valley neighborhood. It was not Yaroslavsky who attracted Gehry to the Los Angeles River Project.
“I have no idea who drowned him,” Yaroslavsky mused.
Jerry attributes his overall interest in the Los Angeles River Project to helping the environment and children living in urban areas.
“I found that there are communities in the southeast of the county where there is no space for parks, and the children who grow up have a 10-year-lower lifespan. This has been recorded and confirmed by the US Department of Public Health. After I saw this, I couldn’t help but “to participate.”
The buildings, projects and issues enabled Frank Gehry to travel all over the world – France, Spain, China and Germany – and in the United States New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. However, Jerry still considers Los Angeles his home. Gehry’s original Santa Monica home has been around since the 1950s and is described as an architecturally complex design, incorporating glass, corrugated steel and wood to create the feel of a treehouse. He designed and built a new home a few years ago with his architect son, Sam. The home has the ambiance of a modern Adirondack lodge, featuring exposed Douglas fir and expanses of glass. It’s more luxurious than the original, which also stayed in the family.
As for why Jerry stays in Los Angeles, he explains it simply.
“I grew up professionally here. Los Angeles attracts top writers, musicians, artists and even architects. The energy here seems to push people to explore their craft.
As Angelenos, we are all better because our city and county are filled with the works and imagination of Frank Gehry.