A name as well known as Frank Gehry’s is wont to become synonymous with itself, as if ‘Gehry’s’ style, evidenced in buildings from his Santa Monica family home to the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao, could be an isolated phenomenon, as famous as he has become. In such cases it is useful to reassert an artist’s relationship to their traditional contexts.
Gehry’s works are examples of the Deconstructivist School. In 1967, Jacques Derrida’s text Of Grammatology set the parameters for a new literary criticism that saw meaning as fundamentally relational. No word has meaning in and of itself but its sense is brought out through contrasts. Texts could now be deconstructed to unpack their endless coded meanings, and, simultaneously, new terms, concepts, in short, new relations, should be pushed against the violence imminent to the old order. From an architectural perspective, it can be seen how Gehry’s discordant forms - morphing the established laws of Euclidean Geometry and defying gravity alike - push the boundaries that had previously held architectural matter in place.
His career as an architect was established with the completion of his family home in Santa Monica in 1978. There he repurposed a bungalow, encasing it with a jagged network of skylights and metal frames. Everyday materials such as plywood and metals are offset by the strong and sharp forms they are given, and this composite itself conflicts with the logic of the bungalow. Deconstructivism is here put into practice. Almost twenty years later, with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the composite form has take centre stage, but here a lace like fluidity reflects the lines of the waterfront that sits beside it.