Why is Frank Gehry an Architect?

I tried. I really did. For the life of me, I cannot understand how Frank Gehry can be classified as an architect, let alone one of the greatest architects of our time.

Now, I’m not obsessed about architecture, nor am I very knowledgable about architecture to any credible extent. But I know, as I’m sure you know as well, that architecture is basically designing buildings. Therefore I know that architecture at least adopts the most basic of design principles shared by virtually all design practices.

Frank Gehry personifies almost nothing about design at all.


This is Frank Gehry’s “design” process.

“Pretty funny.”

“That is so stupid-looking.”


He cuts up pieces of cardboard and toys with them like a toddler playing with building blocks. Keep in mind that this process directly affects 1) the work engineers have to do to make this a physically viable structure to construct, 2) the work construction people have to do to actually transform the design into something real, and 3) every penny spent on the project being worked on.

Sidenote: Isn't "Starchitect" supposed to be a derogatory term?


This is the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California. To be honest, it's the only work of his that I actually like. Why? Because I like how its aesthetic matches its intention. The chrome colour of its exterior along with its sleek curves — and the scarcity of its curves and other visual variables, compared to his other works — creates a highly prestigious image. It’s a design fit for a concert hall.

My appreciation for it is like my appreciation for the Sydney Opera House. Their specific designs are highly effective aesthetically, but they adopt a structuralist approach rather than a functionalist one. That’s why they’re so iconic.

What saddens me is that it’s somehow a stroke of luck that he was able to design such a great building. All his other works are an endeavour of mass copying and pasting…


This is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain. And yes, it’s nearly the same exact design as the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Same thing, different purpose.

While much of his body of work has some variation, his aesthetic is consistent and repetitive: curved lines and abnormal geometry, which results to nearly no respect for the purpose of his buildings existing in the first place or where they’re located.


This is the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. It’s a performance hall.


This is the interior of the DZ Bank building in Berlin, Germany. It’s an office, conference, and residential building.


This is the Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s an academic complex.


This is the Nationale-Nederlanden building in Prague, Czech Republic, also known as the “Dancing House”.

This is one that I want to draw particular attention to, since I’ve been to Prague myself. Prague is known for it’s beautiful Gothic and Baroque architecture and Renaissance-esque atmosphere. This building doesn’t make an effort to exemplify that at all, in fact, it does the opposite. It dismantles it, destroys it, and spits in the face of what Prague stands for. It’s a disfigured disgrace.


If Gehry’s work hardly represents design, in any sense of the word, then what does it represent? To me, his work represents the sweeping misconception that design is about making things look nice. As I made clear in my previous post, design is so much more than that.

So in the same way Frank Gehry isn’t a designer, Zaha Hadid is not a designer. Kanye West is not a designer. Who would I classify as a designer then?


Dieter Rams is a designer. 


Eduardo Souto de Moura is a designer.


Naoto Fukasawa is a designer.


Paul Rand was a designer.

These are all people I have immense respect for because of the deliberation, thus integrity, that their work has been carried out with. They understand that while the things people can see are important, it’s just as important to factor in everything else, such as location in architecture or ergonomics in product design.

Simply put, design is a holistic practice that doesn’t exist in a vacuum.



"A logo doesn’t sell, it identifies. A logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around. A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like." - Paul Rand