Gehry House extension appears to ’emerge from inside the house’
Continuing our series exploring deconstructive architecture, we take a look at the Gehry House, architect Frank Gehry’s radical extension of his home in Santa Monica, California.
The Gehry House was built around an existing suburban Dutch-style building, which Gehry expanded by adding a number of interlocking structures that disrupt the form of the original building.
“The strength of the house comes from the sense that the additions were not imported into the site but emerged from within the house,” Mark Wigley said in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) catalog for the groundbreaking Deconstructive Architecture exhibition. In which the house appeared.
“It’s as if the house has always harbored these twisted shapes inside it.”
Gehry used cheap materials—such as chain-link fencing, corrugated galvanized steel and plywood—for the 1978 extension, spending just $50,000 on the project.
“I was interested in simple materials — you didn’t have to have fancy materials,” Gehry explained in a 2021 interview with PIN-UP Magazine.
“I worked with corrugated metal, which I liked to be galvanized,” he added. “I didn’t like the way it was usually used but I liked the aesthetics. And of course I loved the wood, from the Japanese-influenced materials to the wooden frames.”
The Gehry House extension was designed to wrap around three sides of the existing building.
“We had a 12-foot side yard that we could build on,” Jerry explained. “So, I said, ‘Great. Why don’t we build a new addition on the side?’ “It became a frustration against the old house – it was like you saw the old house against the new construction.”
In the first phase of the renovation, Gehry and assistant Paul Lubwicki added shapes that appeared to emerge from the house’s interior, including a tilted cube made from the original house’s wood frame.
“As these shapes make their way out, they lift the roof of the building, exposing the structure; they create a second skin that wraps around the front and sides of the new volume, but peels right off the back wall of the house. I stand free, like a theater scene,” Wigley said in his description of the house.
The second phase of the renovation, which began in 1979, focused on the back wall of the house, and was designed to make it appear as if the wall was broken, with the shingles falling out.
For the final phase, which began in 1988 — 10 years after the project first began — Gehry added new volumes to his backyard.
The Gehry House was one of the projects featured in MoMA’s Deconstructive Architecture exhibition, where it was shown alongside works by Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, and Wolf Bricks.
The exhibition would come to define the emerging architecture movement.
Although the house was recognized as an important part of the emerging architectural style, the design proved controversial with Gehry’s neighbors, one of whom sued him over it.
“The neighbors were really upset,” Geary said of the project. “The neighbor a short distance from me was an attorney. She complained to the city, filed a lawsuit, etc., but it got nowhere.”
Instead, his choice to extend the house around the existing building ended up designing the extension for the neighbour.
“She finally remodeled her house,” Jerry said. “And guess what she did? She built a new house around her old one. It doesn’t look exactly the same, but she copied my idea.”
Photography by IK World Tour unless otherwise stated.
Deconstructivism is considered one of the most influential architectural movements of the 20th century. Our series profiles the buildings and the works of their key proponents – Eisenman, Gehry, Hadid, Koolhaas, Libeskind, Tschumi, and Brix.
Read our deconstruction series ›