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Few architects have managed to become household names in their lifetimes, but Frank Gehry is certainly one of them. Born in Toronto in 1929, the award-winning architect rose to fame thanks to his distinct postmodernist style marked by the undulating lines of his structures, the use of stainless steel cladding, and a certain theatricality that oozes from his masterpieces.
Inspired by artists such as Ed Moses and Billy Al Bengston, Gehry had his start in architecture after trying his hand at a few odd jobs in Los Angeles, where his family had moved. The rest, as they say, is history, and at 92, Gehry is still writing his.
Frank Gehry's buildings are pure works of art that enliven cityscapes and attract millions of adoring fans. Often, they become destinations in their own right, causing a boom in tourism in the cities they rise. His most famous project—the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao—sent the architect into the stratosphere, making him a favorite of critics and the general public alike. Simply put, Frank Gehry's buildings and iconic style have reshaped contemporary architecture.
Here, we rounded up the most influential and important structures he has designed (so far).
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain
Hailed as Gehry's best and most famous masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao won over critics with its whimsical appearance and established the architect as a leading figure in modern architecture. The museum's opening led to the so-called "Bilbao effect"—people from all over flocked to the Spanish city to marvel at Gehry's building in person, boosting the local economy. The groundbreaking design is clad in glistening titanium panels that reflect the sky even on a cloudy day.
Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris
The 2014 completion of the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris saw the addition of another architectural masterpiece to the City of Light. Set in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne park, the concrete structure's most notable features are the 12 glass sail-like elements covering the facade.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, California
After years of turmoil, the Walt Disney Concert Hall finally opened its doors in 2004 to critical acclaim. The facade's reflective surface, in combination with its undulating design—both elements that have come to define Gehry's style—create a fantastic visual effect.
Olympic Fish Pavilion, Barcelona
Built for the 1992 summer Olympics, the gold-hued steel mesh sculpture of a fish fits in perfectly in the architectural landscape of Barcelona defined by the whimsical buildings of Gaudi. It was the first time Gehry and his team used special software to help them bring his avant-garde vision to realization.
Neuer Zollhof, Germany
These Gehry-designed office buildings on the banks of the Rhine River not only revived the area around Dusseldorf's port but they also put the city on the map of every architecture enthusiast. The project consists of three separate concrete towers, each clad in different materials—red brick, glistening stainless steel, and white plaster.
Vitra Design Museum, Germany
While not as monumental as some of his other works, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil-am-Rhein is a masterpiece of deconstructivism completed in 1989. Curvy ramps and angular towers make up the two-story structure that spans some 7,500 square feet.
Gehry House, California
Considered one of the earliest examples of Gehry's unusual style, the architect's own house in Santa Barbara was an original 1920s building that he wrapped in angular structures built from unconventional materials such as plywood and chain link.
Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota
Completed in 2011, the more than 8,000-square-foot extension of the Weisman Art Museum features steel-clad geometric turrets and bays that overlook the gorge of the Mississippi River. The five-story futuristic west wing sports two rows of windows towards its top, where the exhibition spaces and administrative offices are.
Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic
Created in collaboration with Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić, Gehry modeled the Dancing House after two of America's most renowned dancers: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The structure resembles a dancing couple with the twisted glass tower inspired by Rogers and the concrete one by Astaire.
Museum of Pop Culture, Washington
Built to convey "the energy and fluidity of music," Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture is clad in three thousand panels, each featuring a whopping 21 thousand individually cut and painted stainless steel aluminum shingles. Thanks to the many finishes and colors of the shingles, the facade changes its appearance depending on the light and weather conditions of the day. Gehry famously made the first model of the museum from sliced guitars.
Hotel Marqués de Riscal, Spain
This luxury complex in Northern Spain comprises a hotel, a spa, shops, a viticulture museum, and an old winery. The burgundy shades of Rioja wine inspired the pink colors of the building's cladding while the silver hues symbolize the foil that covers the cork.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Illinois
Chicago's Jay Pritzker Pavilion, located in the city's Millenium Park is an open-air music venue completed in 2004. The abstract structure is clad in stainless steel, while the stage—in Douglas Fir. The trellis that covers the venue is a latticework of curved steel pipes where elaborate sound and light systems are installed.
The IAC Building, New York
Located along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, the curvaceous glass building of InterActiveCorp is reminiscent of Gehry's Dancing House in Prague and Neuer Zollhof office complex in Germany. While some liken the twisted design to pleats, the facade's appearance was inspired by ship sails as they move in the wind.
Cinémathèque Française, France
Gehry's first building in Paris is the postmodernist home of Cinémathèque Française, a non-profit organization tasked with preserving French cinema's legacy and archives. The architect likened the bold asymmetrical design to a "dancer lifting her tutu."
Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Nevada
This Las Vegas-based complex consists of two buildings joined by a trellis that towers over a patio. The gravity-defying facade of the event space is punctuated by several rows of windows and covered in glistening stainless steel skin.
Marta Herford, Germany
While the flowing shape of this contemporary art museum in Herford is an excellent example of Gehry's signature style, the façade lacks the architect's signature all-over stainless steel cladding. Instead, he had it built with red bricks and only covered the roof in stainless steel panels resulting in a sharp contrast between the two.
For this project, Gehry departed from his usual monochrome palette and went for an explosion of color. Panama City's Biomuseo was the architect's first Latin American commission and took inspiration from the country's biodiversity. The final design, with its colorful plaster-covered roofline, resembles the country's traditional tin-roofed houses.
New York by Gehry, New York
This is Gehry's first skyscraper project, and it's located in Lower Manhattan. The 76-story residential building is covered in 10,500 stainless steel panels. The majority of those sport different shapes giving the facade a ripple-like appearance.