With magnificent buildings such as the Guggenheim Bilbao , Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the new Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris, Frank Gehry (b. 1929) has changed the nature and spirit of contemporary architecture. Yet the world’s best-known living architect has also enjoyed a prolific career as a Designer: of artful and functional objects, ranging from furniture to jewelry, that even at smaller scale are as lively and captivating as his architectural designs.
Gehry was born in Toronto and moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1947. He received a degree in architecture from the University of Southern California in 1954 and—after several years of casting about that included a stint in the U.S. Army and studies at Harvard — Gehry opened his architectural practice in L.A. in 1962. Idiosyncratic renovations to his small, traditional house in Santa Monica — such as cladding portions of the exterior in chain-link fencing and corrugated metal — drew attention to Gehry in architectural circles. Corporate and institutional commissions added to his reputation, culminating in the global acclaim that greeted the opening of the Guggenheim Bilbao in 1997. But the combination of visual dynamism and structural integrity expressed by that building had been evident for decades in Gehry’s designs. In 1972 he introduced a much-admired line of furniture he called Easy Edges. The curves and flowing lines of the pieces seem antithetical to the material are made from: cardboard—a presumably flimsy material that, when stacked, laminated and folded, is actually extraordinarily sturdy.