Frank Gehry Masterclass Review

Published by: Julia

Frank Gehry is a world-renowned architect. But his masterclass is about far more than architecture. He shares design principles, his creative process, business tips, and much more. Beneficial knowledge that anyone can benefit from knowing.

Who is Frank Gehry your instructor?

Frank Gehry has been working as an architect since the 50s. Right from the start of his career, it was clear that he had something different to offer. From his first project, The David Cabin, to his work today he has always done something fresh and new. The following are amongst his award-winning buildings and projects:

  • Foundation Louis Vuitton building – Paris
  • Cabrillo Marine Aquarium – San Pedro
  • California Aerospace Museum – Los Angeles
  • 8 Spruce Street – New York City
  • Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall

With this masterclass, there is no doubt that you are in good hands. Frank Gehry has a wealth of experience and plenty of interesting stories to share.

What you will learn from Frank Gehry´s architecture and design masterclass

Here is a list of what you can expect to learn when you take Frank´s architect masterclass. Just the headlines, I go into far more detail later in the post. So, if you want to know more before signing up, just read on a bit further.

  • The importance of developing your style of architect – your signature
  • How to find creativity everywhere
  • Ways to generate ideas
  • Ways to convey your ideas to your clients
  • Dealing with negativity
  • Principles you can use to overcome the obstacles you are likely to encounter
  • Mastering working with a team
  • Advice on how to work with clients
  • How to run a successful architect business

An in-depth review of what I learned when I took Frank Gehry´s masterclass

That is the overview, now let me go a bit deeper and explain in more detail what you are getting when you sign up for this masterclass. Even if after reading this you are not sure about taking Frank Gehry´s Masterclass, bear in mind that you are getting access to around 100 other courses too. So, it is still worth signing up. Read about some of the other classes here.

Always be curious, and let architecture open the door to different subjects, such as philosophy, literature, and music. Regardless of your profession, apply the self-propelled creativity required of an architect to your field or daily life. Frank Gehry

An insight into Frank Gehry´s creative process

You need to be creative to be able to design a building. So, naturally Frank starts with that skill.

Creativity comes from all kinds of places and is often developed over time. During this course, Frank shares lots of anecdotes and personal stories. One of which perfectly demonstrates this fact.

At one stage, he became enamored of Hiroshige’s carp prints. So much so that he found himself constantly drawing fish. Years later he was asked to create a fish sculpture for a fashion show.  Not something he would normally do, but he said yes and explored the process of translating a moving fish into a solid large-scale structure. Decades later that work and experimentation inspired his installation at the Walker Arts Center in Minnesota.

The willingness to explore is an essential element of creativity. It is an essential part of finding your style and developing your signature. Something Frank constantly refers back to and helps you to do with what he teaches.

You should enjoy finding yourself, and you should enjoy expressing yourself.

Frank Gehry – Masterclass

Frank Gehry´s design philosophy

Your design philosophy plays a big role in developing your signature. It guides you, helps others to understand what they will get when they hire you, and provides a framework you can use to build your practice around.  In this section, Frank explains his design philosophy. He always:

  • Designs for real life
  • Imagines himself as a user of the building or neighborhood
  • Transfers his feelings into the design
  • Focuses on expression, not symmetry
  • Shows respect for the neighborhood when coming up with his design
  • Always explores the possibility of using common materials first
  • Begins his design process on paper
  • Does not dine out on his successes

Generating ideas for your buildings

Coming up with ideas for a design can be tricky, even for someone as experienced as Frank. It is not enough to simply come up with a concept. A great building is the result of dozens, even hundreds of ideas being honed and blended together. So, you need to become good at generating ideas and do so quite quickly.

In this section, Frank covers :

  • Why you need to be prepared to explore even crazy ideas
  • Not being afraid to repeat yourself and how to do it well
  • How to overcome creative blocks
  • Questioning your eureka moments without cutting off your creative energy

Designing a building is like playing jazz. You improvise, you respond, and you work intuitively to create something.

Frank Gehry – Architecture Masterclass

Where Frank Gehry gets inspiration for his buildings

Being curious and not being afraid to dive deep and explore is a great way to generate ideas. Frank takes inspiration from everywhere. For example, at one stage he heavily immersed himself in the Los Angeles art scene.

If something catches your eye, trust that instinct. use it, feed off of it. That something caught your attention.

Overcoming design obstacles

There are so many rules. There’s a lot of room for creativity outside that, you know. You can meet all those constraints and still make architecture out of it.

Frank Gehry Architecture Masterclass

Architects know from the start that their design is not going to be implemented in its totality. Many other outside factors have an impact on what gets built. There is a budget to work within, regulations, as well as the aesthetics of other buildings. As well, of course as engineering and material limitations. Plus, the clients’ vision and needs have to be fulfilled.

Frank explains how to avoid letting these constraints frustrate and overwhelm your vision and retard your creativity. He shares insights into how he has managed all of this and has still been able to design some of the world´s most striking buildings.

Frank Gehry´s obsession with expressing movement in his architectural designs

For me, the idea of incorporating movement into the facade of a building is an alien concept. Yet it is possible. Just look at a picture of the aptly named Dancing House in Prague and you will soon realize that Frank really has been able to generate the feeling that the building has been frozen in mid-movement.

It is Frank´s early obsession with the ability of artists and sculptures to portray movement using inert materials that has enabled him to pull off this seemingly impossible feat. Not just once, but with multiple architectural designs.

How to take your client along with you on your creative journey

Connecting properly with your client is a bit part of being able to successfully deliver any project. Frank once again touches on the need to understand what your client wants. But there is another dimension to the relationship. They also need to be able to understand your side of the equation. The limitations you are working under, what is possible and what is not. But most importantly of all your vision, what it is you are trying to create for them.

This is not always easy to convey. Clients do not have much understanding of the design process or rules and regulations that impact what can be done. It is up to you to find ways to bridge the gap.

In this video he covers:

  • How to decide if it’s the right project for you
  • Understanding your client’s needs
  • Respecting their budget
  • Creating and experimenting with site models
  • Exploring materials that fit both budget and design
  • The importance of vetting technical issues as you go
  • Keeping your client engaged throughout the entire process

An insight into Frank Gehry´s creative and design processes

In this section, Frank shares some of the reasoning behind his design choices. Focusing primarily on the Walt Disney Hall, then the creation of 8 Spruce Street, NYC. He covers.

  • Research – what works and what doesn´t
  • How starting with the most basic building you could build provides an anchor for the design process
  • The art of the curtain wall
  • Prototyping – why and how to do it
  • Why and how to listen to your end-user (NB this is not necessarily your client)
  • Recognizing when you reach the point where you have a design that works

For this lesson, I followed the “Take It Further” assignment and was stunned to see that I could see the influence of the Berliner Philharmonie and the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam had influenced the way Frank designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall. At that point, it was clear to me that I was learning quite a bit about architecture, without really realizing I was doing so.

How to fix a building in its neighborhood

This section of the course was the part that most focused on architecture. Rather than design and creativity principles that could be applied to all kinds of disciplines. Frank talks about how to make sure that the building you create sits well in its surroundings (its neighborhood). He briefly covers considerations such as:

  • Zoning
  • Economics -e.g. the value of the land it stands on
  • Scale e.g. height and creating a dialogue with the surrounding buildings
  • The purpose of the building and regulations that relate to that
  • The elements or neighboring buildings and how a neighborhood is laid out
  • How the people who live and work in the area occupy and use their neighborhood
  • There is still much freedom within these restrictions. It’s up to you to discover and explore this freedom. Frank Gehry
  • Getting the most out of building materials and prototyping tips

The materials you use have a huge impact on the aesthetic and energy of a building. As well as many practical implications. Insights into how to choose and use the right materials. How the grey light of the Basque country led him to insist that the Guggenheim Bilbao by clad in titanium. Having seen this building I can personally vouch for what a genius decision this was.

This section is broken down into the following subjects :

  • Research and play with the latest materials
  • Test how new materials play with light
  • Get creative with materials that suit your budget
  • Demonstrate to clients what can be done

On the face of it, this subject sounds a bit dry and boring. But it most certainly is not. I should not have been surprised, after all, we are talking about a man who in addition to designing and building award-winning buildings created sought-after furniture using, of all things, corrugated cardboard. I particularly enjoyed following the suggestion in the further reading section and learning about the potential of carbon fiber.

Designing residential projects

Building a home for an individual client is the work that most architects end up doing most of the time. So, it was good to see this subject touched upon in Frank Gehry´s Masterclass. However, it was a shame he did not dive deeper into this subject.

Many of the architects who will take his masterclass are running small private practices. So, the subject of residential projects would be especially important to them. To some extent, he makes up for the lack of information on this subject by including a long list of further reading. Resources I am sure will contain a lot of useful information.

Frank Gehry´s tips for running an architecture firm

This is another vital subject, which, to be honest, Frank also skimmed over a bit in his masterclass. It feels very much like he tacked this video on almost as an afterthought. Having said that, Frank has run his own extraordinarily successful architecture firm since 1964. So, the little he said on the subject still has a lot of value.

Working successfully with an architectural team

Again, this section was woefully short on detail. However, it is clear that Frank genuinely respects every single member of his team. He understands and appreciates the role each person plays and pays a lot of attention at the recruitment and induction stages.

Frank Gehry´s architecture masterclass assignments

There are a lot of assignments weaved into Frank Gehry’s course. Unfortunately, most of them are simply further reading tasks. While it is helpful to know where to go to read more it is disappointing that there were not more meaty assignments included.

Students of masterclasses know that putting what they have just learned into action it is an excellent way to make the new skills they are acquiring their own. So, I found the lack of meaningful assignments to be a disappointment.

Frank Gehry´s architecture workbook PDF download

For those who take the course, there is the opportunity to download Frank Gehry´s workbook. It is free and is provided in a handy PDF format. I think most students will find it to be a valuable reference resource.

Can I recommend this course?

The answer to this question is yes. Provided you are looking for is an insight into a great architect´s mind. His creative process and how he has honed his craft.

But if you are an architecture student that is looking for an in-depth course on the craft you are learning, this is not the Masterclass for you. Frank Gehry barely touches on the technical side of things. This is all about the creative process. How he approaches projects and what has inspired him.

Having said that, I think that a lot of architect students will still enjoy taking this masterclass. As would anyone else who is interested in the discipline or at all curious about how the buildings around them are created.

Frank Gehry Masterclass FAQs

Is Frank Gehry´s Masterclass worth the price?

Yes, especially when you bear in mind that students also get access to the full library of Masterclass.com MOOC courses.

At the time of writing this, there were nearly a hundred available. With more being added each month. Including several courses that are ideal for people who are interested in design.

How long is Frank Gehry´s Architecture Masterclass?

It is 2 hrs 33 minutes long. There are 17 videos in total.

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