Frank Gehry is considered a giant of the arts, specifically in architecture, because he achieves what other artists of such stature are able to achieve: a unique and innovative vision that transforms how the medium is perceived. Not only are his works wholly original, in that they look like no other designs that have come before it, but they are also culturally recognized throughout the entire world for their brilliance. A giant of the arts is someone who singlehandedly changes the possibility of what an art form can achieve, and Frank Gehry’s unique designs transformed perceptions on how architecture can be seen as a form of art unto itself.
Gehry’s most notable work is the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, which features curved walls and an asymmetric design. The aesthetics of the building, or the way it is designed to look from the exterior, is one of Gehry’s signature characteristics. The building looks like no other, and is intended to be viewed as a work of art unto itself. Previously, most architectural designs for museums followed fairly traditional designs, or if they were ornamental, they were modeled after previous architectural eras, such as adopting Greek-style columns, or gothic-inspired arches. Gehry’s design for the Guggenheim relied on none of these previous influences, opting instead for a style that no one had seen before. Perhaps the style can best be described as three-dimensional modern art, because it does not appear to follow any traditional rules, such as square corners and rectangular rooms. Nevertheless, the building is indeed functional, it just happens to function in a way that people were not used to experiencing.
Gehry’s style can be difficult to define in specific terms, because each of his buildings look unlike anything he has created before. Each time he begins designing a building, which starts with him sketching a form that will later become a museum, or concert hall, he is creating something innovative and new. For instance, he has designed buildings with curved walls that appear similar to how they might if they existed in a cartoon; buildings such as the Pop Culture Museum in Seattle that looks like a collection of distorted instruments; a bridge in Chicago that appears to look like a snake; and many other wholly unique and various designs. Each building is commissioned with a specific function in mind, so Gehry will design an opera house differently than he might design a museum. Nevertheless, the one unifying element in all of his work is that all of it is different, although he appears to resist straight lines and cubic forms whenever possible.
Although Gehry has achieved widespread acclaim and numerous awards during his lifetime, which is not always true of giants of the arts, there have been a few critics of his work. Some of these criticisms are that his designs are impractical because they value aesthetics over form, or that his work does not service the public interest, which can make it seem elitist. However, any giant of the art is sure to invoke criticism, if for no other reason than giants of the arts are recognized for their ability to innovate, and anything that is new is bound to draw criticism from those who do not understand it.
Perhaps Gehry’s greatest contribution to architecture was his ability to make buildings more expressive than they had ever been; his approach to designing museums was not to construct a building that would merely contain art, but to design the building as a work of art itself. By making each building unique, he also gives each of his buildings an individual sense of identity. For every Frank Gehry building, there is no other building like it in the world. He challenged the way most architects viewed their craft, and he demonstrated to the world how architecture can be expressive.