Frank Gehry, Architecture Portfolio of Selected Works

Frank Gehry stands smiling near his museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Guggenheim
Frank Gehry in 2006 stands smiling near his museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Guggenheim. Photo by Luis Davilla/Cover Collection/Getty Images
of 14

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 1997

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain by architect Frank Gehry.
Bilbao, Spain, 1997 The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain by architect Frank Gehry. Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

From his earliest works, architect Frank Gehry has shattered conventions, designing buildings that some critics say are more sculpture than architecture. Using unorthodox materials and space-age methods, Gehry creates unexpected, twisted forms. His work has been called radical, playful, organic, sensual—a modernism called Deconstructivism. The New York By Gehry residential tower in Lower Manhattan is unmistakable Gehry, yet at street level the facade looks like another NYC Public School.

Gehry learns from each building he designs. His career is an evolution of design. "Disney Hall would not have been built if Bilbao hadn't happened," says Frank O. Gehry, the architect of both iconic buildings.

Here we'll examine some of Frank Gehry's most famous projects and try to understand the patterns of the architect. We'll begin the photo tour with one of his most consequential works, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. So famous is this sleek museum in northern Spain, a dozen miles from the Bay of Biscay bordering western France, that it is known simply as "Bilbao."

About Guggenheim Museum Bilbao:

Completion: 1997
Height: 187.01 feet
Size: 3 floor high rise
Construction Material: titanium façade; specifications for each titanium panel were created using CATIA (Computer-Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application)

In the Words of Architect Gehry:

" We decided to make the building metal because Bilbao was a steel town, and we were trying to use materials related to their industry. So we built twenty-five mock-ups of a stainless steel exterior with different variations on the theme. But in Bilbao, which has a lot of rain and a lot of gray sky, the stainless steel went dead. It only came to life on sunny days. That's why we could use stainless steel at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where there's so much sun it doesn't die."
" I was frustrated because nothing was looking right, and I was still struggling with it when I was in my office looking through the sample files. That's where I found a piece of titanium....Titanium is buttery. If you look at sterling silver silverware, the knife blade is stainless and the handle is sterling. The sterling silver part looks buttery, just like titanium does, whereas the stainless steel knife blade is cold....So I took that piece of titanium, and I nailed it on the telephone pole in front of my office, just to watch it and see what it did in the light. Whenever I went in and out of the office, I'd look at it....The little metal square went golden in the gray light, and....titanium doesn't rust."

Sources: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, EMPORIS; Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, pp. 138-139, 140, 141, 186 [accessed February 25, 2014]

Learn More:

  • Frank O. Gehry: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Coosje Van Bruggen, 1997
    Buy on Amazon
of 14

Disney Concert Hall, 2003

Modernist Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California, Designed by Architect Frank Gehry
Modernist Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California, Designed by Architect Frank Gehry. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Frank Gehry's stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall expanded the reach of Los Angeles' Music Center. "Maybe it's not beautiful by definition in their world," Gehry has said of its controversial design, "but it may over time become beautiful if you live with it, which is what happened to Bilbao and to Disney Hall. But in the first showing of them, people thought I was bonkers." The stainless steel building caused some controversy after its grand opening, but Gehry responded and the controversial design was fixed.

About the Walt Disney Concert Hall:

  • Opened: October 2003
  • Cost: $274 million
  • Size: on 3.6-acre campus
  • The main auditorium (2,265-seats) is designed to look and feel like a ship's hull
  • Roy and Edna Disney / CalArts Theater (266 seats) is known as REDCAT
  • Two outdoor amphitheatres: William M. Keck Foundation Children's Amphitheatre (300 seats)and the Nadine and Ed Carson Amphitheatre (120 seats)
  • Art Gallery: 3,000-square-foot operated and programmed by California Institute of the Arts
  • The Los Angeles Music Center: Incorporated the Walt Disney Concert Hall into its 11-acre campus of theaters, which includes the Ahmanson Theatre (1967), the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1964), and the Mark Taper Forum (1967). REDCAT is not a part of the LA Music Center.

Learn More:

  • Iron: Erecting the Walt Disney Concert Hall by Gil Garcetti, 2002
    Buy on Amazon
  • Symphony: Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, 2003
    Buy on Amazon
  • Facing the Music: Documenting Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles, A Project by Allan Sekula, 2015
    Buy on Amazon

Sources: Venue: Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Music Center of Los Angeles County (accessed April 16, 2012); Our Theaters and Concert Halls, The Music Center of Los Angeles County [accessed January 17, 2013]; Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, 2009, p. 64

of 14

IAC Building, 2007

Twisted towers of Frank Gehry's IAC building in NYC
New York City The IAC Building, architect Frank Gehry's first New York building, is located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Using an exterior skin of frit, ceramic baked into the glass, gives the IAC building the white, reflective look, a windswept air that The New York Times called "elegant architecture."  Frank Gehry loves to experiment with materials.

The building is the corporate headquarters of IAC, an internet and media company, in the Chelsea area of New York City. Located at 555 West 18th Street, its neighbors include works from some of the most famous modern architects working—Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, Renzo Piano. When it opened in 2007, the high-resolution video wall in the lobby was state of the art, a concept that fades quickly over the years. This points out the challenge of the architect—how do you design a building that exudes the "now" of the day's technology without it falling quickly behind over the years? 

About IAC:

Height: 160 feet (10 stories; 8 office floors)
Size: 130,000 net usable square feet
Sustainability: Open floor plan -- 100% of work spaces are exposed to natural light
Construction: cold-warped glass curtain wall (panels bent on site); sloped and angled concrete superstructure.

Sources: IAC Building Fact Sheets PDF, IAC Media Room; "Gehry’s New York Debut: Subdued Tower of Light" by Nicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times, March 22, 2007 [accessed July 30, 2013]


of 14

Maggie's Centre, 2003

White, cottage-like building, wavy silver roof, Frank Gehry, white silo-like tower
At the Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Scotland Maggie's Dundee, 2003, designed by Gehry Partners, LLP. Press photo © Raf Makda, August 2003, via Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art (cropped)

American architect Frank Gehry was asked to design the very first newly built Maggie's Center, finished in 2003. Small residential buildings near major hospitals, Maggie's Centres are located throughout England and Scotland to help people cope with the rigors of cancer treatments.

Designed for sanctuary and peace, Gehry modeled Maggie's Dundee on a traditional Scottish "butt n' ben" dwelling.

of 14

MARTa Herford, 2005

Sinuous brick
Herford, Germany, 2005 The idea and concept of MARTa is to bring "art, economy and society together in a spectacular building.". Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

All Frank Gehry designs are not constructed with polished metal façades.  "The way we work is we make models of the context that the buildings are going to be in," Gehry has said. "We pretty thoroughly document it because that gives me visual clues. For instance, in Herford I wandered around the streets, and I found that all the public buildings were brick and all the private buildings were plaster. Since this is a public building, I decided to make it brick, because that's the language of the town....I really spend time doing that, and if you go to Bilbao, you'll see that even though the building looks pretty exuberant, it is very carefully scaled to what's around it....I'm really proud of this one."

About the MARTa Muesum:

Location: Herford, an industrial town (furniture and clothing) east of Westphalia in Germany
Opened: May 2005
Use: contemporary art museum, with a special focus on architecture and interior design (Möbel, ART, and Ambiente)
Height: 40.71 feet low rise
Size: 2 floors, 2,500 square meters of exhibition space
Construction Materials: concrete, dark-red brick, stainless steel roof

Sources: MARTa Museum, EMPORIS at; Marta Herford - The Architecture by Frank Gehry at and Idea and Concept at, official MARTa website; Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, 2009, p. 153 [accessed February 24, 2014]

of 14

Jay Pritzker Music Pavilion, 2004

Pritzker Pavilion, outdoor performance venue designed by Frank Gehry, Chicago
Chicago, Illinois, 2004 Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry, Chicago. Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images (cropped)

Home to the Grant Park Music Festival and other free concerts, this modern outdoor stage is also home to one of the most advanced sound systems in the world.

When the City of Chicago planned an open-air performance venue for the people of the city, Pritzker Laureate Frank O. Gehry was enlisted. But how could Chicago build a large, public gathering area so close to the busy Columbus Drive and make it safe? Gehry's solution was the curvy, snake-like BP Bridge he designed, connecting Millennium Park with Daley Plaza. Play some tennis, then cross over to take in a free concert. Loving Chicago!

About the Pritzker Pavilion:

Location: Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois
Opened: July 2004 (designed in June 1999)
Use: outdoor music pavilion, proscenium stag
Seating: 4,000 fixed seats, bright red chairs; additional 7,000 lawn seating
Great Lawn: 95,000 square feet
Construction Materials: signature Gehry curvy stainless steel forms a "billowing headdress" over the stage
Height: 120 feet
Acoustics: a high-tech sound system is built into steel piping that zigzags over the Great Lawn; everyone can hear the performances thanks to TALASKE Sound Thinking in Oak Park, Illinois

More About the Sound System:

Gehry may have provided the trellis design over the Great Lawn, but the Talaske Group provided the acoustics. The 3-D architecturally-created sound environment is not simply loudspeakers hanging from Gehry's pipes, but the acoustic design considers placement, height, direction, and digital synchronicity:

" The concentric arrangement of loudspeakers and the use of digital delays create the impression that sound is arriving from the stage, even when most of the sound arrives to distant patrons from nearby loudspeakers."— TALASKE | Sound Thinking

Go for the architecture. Go for the sound.

Who was Jay Pritzker?

Jay Pritzker (1922-1999) was the grandson of Russian immigrants who had settled in Chicago in 1881. The Chicago of that day, a decade after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was recovering, vibrant, and on the cusp of becoming the skyscraper capital of the world. The Pritzker progeny were raised to be prosperous and giving, and Jay was no exception. Jay Pritzker is not only the founder of the Hyatt Hotel chain, but also the founder of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, modeled after the Nobel Prize. The City of Chicago honored Jay Pritzker by building public architecture in his name.

Sources: Millennium Park - Art & Architecture and Millennium Park - Jay Pritzker Pavilion Facts and Figures and Millennium Park - BP Bridge Facts and Figures, City of Chicago; Jay Pritzker, The Economist, January 28, 1999 [accessed June 17, 2014]

of 14

Ray and Maria Stata Center, 2004

Lopsided buildings in Boston, MA, the Stata Center designed by Frank Gehry
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge The Ray and Maria Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry, is an odd jumble of lopsided buildings. The Center houses three departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. Photo by Donald Nausbaum/Photographer's Choice Collection/Getty Images

Buildings are designed to look lopsided at the Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But the unconventional design led to cracks, leaks, and other structural problems. The amphitheater had to be rebuilt, and reconstruction cost some $1.5 million. MIT filed a negligence suit against Gehry Partners, charging that their design of the Stata Center was defective.

of 14

Weisman Art Museum, 1993

Stainless steel wavy skin of the Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The University of Minnesota, 1993 Stainless steel skin of the Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge Archive Photos/Getty Images (cropped)

Architect Frank Gehry established his design style in the stainless steel façade waves of the Weisman. "I always spend a long time looking at the site and thinking about what's contextual," says Gehry. "The site was on the side of the Mississippi, and it faced due west, so it had a western orientation. And I was thinking about the University of Minnesota buildings that have been built. About the president of the university telling me that he didn't want another brick building....I had worked with metal already, so I was into it. Then Edwin and I started playing with the surface and curving it like sails, like I always like to do. Then we made it in metal, and we had this nice sculptural façade."

About the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum:

Location: University of Minnesota's East Bank Campus, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Completion: 1993; renovated in 2011
Height: 85 feet, low rise
Size: 4 floors above ground; 2 floors below ground
Construction Materials: brick with stainless steel curtain wall

" If you look at my drawings, you can see that I was thinking about Tibetan monasteries and how they looked on the hillside. When you approached the site from the Minneapolis side by bridge, it reminded me of the monasteries....I had a façade facing the river, and that's what I started drawing....Edwin Chan literally took my sketches and started making models out of them....In the case of the Weisman, if you go back to the earlier sketches, because I was insecure about it, I let the models inform the design and distort the shapes into something else. Had I stuck with the original shapes, I think it might have been better....Now I don't edit like that so much. I try and maintain the movement and character of the sketches. Bilbao was more about that. Bilbao is much closer to the sketches. It took a while for me to trust myself."

Sources: Weisman Art Museum, EMPORIS; Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, pp. 87, 91, 92, 94 [accessed February 24, 2014]

of 14

Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, 2003

Undulating skin of stainless steel waves over the entrance to a performing arts center in upstate New York
Fisher Center for the Performing Arts by Architect Frank Gehry at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Photo © Jackie Craven

The unusual shape of Frank Gehry's Fisher Center at Bard College grew out of the design for the two interior theaters.

Lead architect Frank Gehry designed The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts with acoustical designer Yasuhisa Toyota, of Nagata Acoustics Inc. Richard Pilbrow and John Tissot of South Norwalk, Connecticut were theater consultants for the project.

Frank Gehry chose brushed stainless steel for the exterior of the Fisher Center so that the sculptural building would reflect light and color from the pastural landscape. The unusual shape of the Fisher Center grew out of the design for the two interior theaters. Undulating stainless steel canopies project over the box office and lobby. The canopies loosely drape over the sides of the theaters, creating two tall, sky-lit gathering areas on each side of the main lobby. The canopies also create a sculptural, collar-like shape that rests on the concrete and plaster walls of the two theaters.

Like most of Gehry's architecture, the Fisher Center brought much praise and criticism all at the same time.

About the Fisher Center at Bard College:

  • Total gross program area = 107,612 square feet
  • $62 million to construct
  • Opened April 25, 2003
  • Main Theater: Sosnoff Theater (900 seats); "acoustic shell" by Yasuhisa Toyota
of 14

Gehry House Remodeled by Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry's House in Santa Monica, California
Frank Gehry's House in Santa Monica, California. Photo by Susan Wood/Hulton Archive/Getty Images (cropped)

Architect Frank Gehry enveloped a traditional home with a radical new design. Some point to Gehry's own home remodeling as the beginning of his career.

Frank Gehry's private home in Santa Monica, California began with a traditional tract home with clapboard siding and a gambrel roof. Gehry gutted the interior and re-invented the house as a work of deconstructionist architecture. After stripping the interior down to the beams and rafters, Gehry wrapped the exterior with what appears to be scraps and rubbish: plywood, corrugated metal, glass, and chain link. As a result, the old house still exists inside the envelope of the new house. The Gehry House remodeling was completed in 1978.

Today, the house is not the same. In 1991, Gehry remodeled again:

" The kids needed bedrooms and stuff, and we had more money to spend. We built a pool. We fixed the roof. We fixed the skylights and the electrical system. A lot was done that unraveled that old house, and I lost it. The house now has vestigial reminders of the old strength, but it's not as good a house. It's not as good a piece of art, if you want to call it art, as it was on the first go-round."

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) called the Gehry Residence "ground-breaking" and "provocative" when it selected the Santa Monica house to receive the 2012 Twenty-five Year Award. Gehry's remodeling joins the ranks of other past winners, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in 1973, Philip Johnson's Glass House in 1975, and the Vanna Venturi House in 1989.

Gehry's house is a remodeling job that deserves a closer look.

Source: Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, 2009, pp. 68-69

of 14

The Experience Music Project (EMP), 2000

Aerial view of the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project, EMP, music museum in Seattle, WA
Frank Gehry in Seattle, Washington The Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle, Washington State, by Frank Gehry, 2000. Photo by George White Location Photography/Photolibrary/Getty Images (cropped)

In the shadow of the iconic Space Needle, Frank Gehry's homage to rock-and-roll music is part of the Seattle Center, site of the 1962 World's Fair.

When Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen wanted a new museum to celebrate his personal loves—rock-and-roll and science fiction—architect Frank Gehry was up to the design challenge. Legend has it that Gehry broke apart several electric guitars and used the pieces to make something new—a literal act of deconstructivism. The Experience Music Project was Gehry's first commercial project in the Pacific Northwest.

About EMP:

Location: Seattle Center, Site of Century 21, the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, Washington State
Opened: 2000
Exterior Skin: 3,000 panels consisting of 21,000 "shingles" of stainless steel and painted aluminum—"A fusion of textures and myriad colors, EMP's exterior conveys all the energy and fluidity of music," says the EMP website.
Size: 140,000 total square feet; footprint, 35,000 square feet
Height: Highest point: 85 feet at Sky Church
Footprint: 210 feet wide at West Harrison Street; 360 feet long at 5th Avenue N
Seattle Center Monorail: From EMP to downtown Seattle is a 2 minute ride on the monorail, built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. The above photo shows the rails going through the EMP building.

Computer-Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA):

To build highly stylized, sculpted architecture such as the Experience Music Project, Frank Gehry uses computers and software designed for the aerospace industry. CATIA helps create three-dimensional digital models with associated mathematical specifications. Precise building elements are manufactured and used in the construction. Gehry's trademark sculpturing would be cost-prohibitive without CATIA.

Source: The EMP Building, EMP Museum website [accessed June 4, 2013]

of 14

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Business School, 2015

Frank Gehry Treehouse, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building in Sydney, Australia
Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia Design for the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, the "Treehouse," at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Model of the West facade courtesy Gehry Partners LLP via the University of Technology newsroom

Frank Gehry planned a surreal, crinkled design for the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, the architect's first building in Australia. The architect based his idea for the UTS business school on the structure of a tree house. Exteriors flow into interior, and interiors flow in vertical roundness. The school building has two external facades, one made of wavy brick walls and the other massive, angular sheets of glass.

Take a photo tour of the UTS Business Building, completed in 2015 >>

of 14

The American Center in Paris, 1994

Cinematheque Francaise, designed by Frank Gehry, Paris, Ile-de-France, France
Cinematheque Francaise, designed by Frank Gehry, Paris, Ile-de-France, France. Photo by Olivier Cirendini/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images (cropped)

The first Paris, France building designed by architect Frank Gehry was the American Center at 51 rue de Bercy. In the mid-1990s, Gehry was experimenting and honing his deconstructivist style and building techniques. In Paris he chose the locally familiar commercial limestone to play with modern Cubist design. His 1993 Weisman Art Museum in Minnesota has a design similar to this Paris building, although in Europe it may have been a more contrary act to round out Cubism. At the time, in 1994, the Paris design introduced new modernist ideas:

" What strikes you first is the stone: a mellow, vellum-colored limestone that wrapped around the building immediately establishes it as an anchor of solidity in a sea of glass, concrete, stucco and steel....Then, as you come nearer, the building gradually breaks out of the box....Signs throughout the building are executed in the stencil letters that were a trademark of Le Corbusier....For Gehry, machine-age modernity has joined classical Paris...."— New York Times Architecture Review, 1994

This was a transitional time for Gehry, as he experimented with new software and more complicated inside/outside designs. The earlier Weisman structure is brick with a stainless steel facade, and the later 1997 Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain is built with titanium panels—a technique not likely without advanced software specifications. The limestone in Paris was a safe choice for experimental design.

However, the nonprofit owners of the American Center soon found that operating the expensive architecture was financially unsustainable, and in less than two years the building closed. After being vacant for a number of years, Gehry's debut building in Paris became home to La Cinémathèque Francaise, and Gehry moved on.

Source: Frank Gehry's American (Center) In Paris by Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times, June 5, 1994 [accessed October 26, 2014]

of 14

The Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum, 2014

Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum, glass sails designed by Frank Gehry
Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum designed by Frank Gehry, 2014. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images Europe

Is it a sailing ship? A whale? An over-engineered spectacle? No matter what name you use, the Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum marked a another triumph for octogenarian architect Frank Gehry. Located in Jardin d’Acclimatation, a children's park within Bois de Boulogne in Paris, France, the glassy art museum was designed for the renown Louis Vuitton fashion company.

"This building is a whole new thing," wrote architecture critic Paul Goldberger in Vanity Fair, "a new work of monumental public architecture that is not precisely like anything that anyone, including Frank Gehry, has done before."

In the book Conversations With Frank Gehry, author Barbara Isenberg recounts that Frank Gehry conceived the design for the museum during a 45-minute MRI brain scan. That's Gehry—always thinking. The 21st century Vuitton museum is his second building in Paris, and is very different from the Parisian building he designed twenty years earlier.

About Fondation Louis Vuitton Museum:

Open to the Public: October 27, 2014
Architectural Height: 131.23 feet
Foundation: Mat foundation, a shallow but thick reinforced concrete slab able to support structural load
Energy: Geothermal energy
Construction Materials: Ductal,® high-performance concrete reinforced with metal fibers (by Lafarge); glass facade supported with wooden beams
Design Software: Digital Project, Computer-Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA) software developed by Gehry Technologies
Design Idea: Iceberg (interior "box" or "carcass" accommodating galleries and theatres)  covered with glass shells and 12 glass sails. The iceberg is a metal framework covered with 19,000 Ductal panels. The sails are made from custom-made panels of specially-fired glass. Custom-manufacturing specifications and assembly locations were made possible with CATIA design software.

Sources: Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris: The Critics Respond by James Taylor-Foster, ArchDaily, October 22, 2014; "Gehry’s Paris Coup" by Paul Goldberger, Vanity Fair, September 2014 at; Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création at creation-paris-france, EMPORIS; Fondation Louis Vuitton Press Kit, October 17, 2014, at; Conversations With Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, 2009, p. ix [accessed October 26, 2014]

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "Frank Gehry, Architecture Portfolio of Selected Works." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, Craven, Jackie. (2017, February 21). Frank Gehry, Architecture Portfolio of Selected Works. Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "Frank Gehry, Architecture Portfolio of Selected Works." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 26, 2018).