Building a Frank Gehry biography

Yohana Figueroa

One man revolutionized architecture. The new documentary “Sketches of Frank Gehry” shows a casual look of this revolution.

The documentary is a personal look at the private life and works of famous architect, Frank Gehry. Educated in the “old school” of architecture where art and architecture were two different fields, Gehry showed the history of his unique architecture style through the lens of long time friend and director of the film, Sidney Pollack.

The film is a laid-back look at the Toronto native’s work from the “scribbles” as one client interviewed described them, through miniature three-dimensional models of corrugated cardboard and tape, to the stunning finished structure. The documentary is set up with friendly conversation between Gehry’s architect partners, their clients, Gehry’s psychiatrist and Pollack.

In intimate scenes, Gehry confesses why he changed his last name from Goldberg, how he was devastated after an architect professor told him he wasn’t cut out for this kind of work and his early youth playing with building blocks that sparked his interest in architecture.

The documentary is easy to follow as it outlines the connection between art and architecture seen in Gehry’s buildings. Two of his most famous buildings are the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

It was a delight to see the way Gehry, often a reserved person, offers information about himself and his work. “I’m always scared that I’m not going to know what to do. Then when I start I’m always amazed and say, oh, well that wasn’t so bad.”

Not without controversy, the documentary also shows the other side of the debate, the “Gehry isn’t THAT hot” side. Hal Foster, Professor of Art and Archeology at Princeton University is not a fan of Gehry, says Gehry’s work is ugly. But Gehry just keeps going on, what can he do he says, in a nonchalant way.

He has plenty fans, clients and colleagues like Mildred Friedman who considers Gehry among his contemporaries as “an artist who takes risks.”