Gehry discusses inspirations

During a talk at the School of Architecture on Friday, architect and visiting professor Frank Gehry said he has lately drawn great inspiration from the music world and has even discussed his shifting interests with hip-hop artist Jay-Z — a co-owner of the Nets basketball team, for which Gehry has designed a new stadium in downtown Brooklyn.

Gehry discussed his projects and theories with architecture critic Paul Goldberger ’72 in front of an audience of more than 400 students and faculty in Hastings Hall. Gehry — who is best known for his curvaceous sculptural style and use of reflective metals — spoke about his architectural approach, his experience designing the titanium-covered Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and his current and upcoming projects.

Gehry said his style and approach to design is grounded in intuition.

“I do something, and if it looks good, I come back and work on it some more,” he said.

The architect said he finishes the majority of his research on structural requirements and functions before creating his sketches, which he currently designs using computer software.

While he said he thinks his design of the Guggenheim in 1997 was well-timed, Gehry said the project was perhaps his most intimidating of his career.

“Bilbao wanted an icon which was an amazing gesture to the community,” he said. “But it scared the s– out of me.”

Although critics praised the Guggenheim’s design, Gehry said, he was self-conscious about his work and felt his design errors were conspicuous during the opening of the museum.

School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern said Gehry is at the top of the architectural profession.

“He is one of the world’s most gifted and most admired architects,” Stern said. “Today, professor Gehry has his pick of the world’s great projects.”

But Stern said Gehry came from humble beginnings and did not always have his pick of attractive projects.

“After he established his Los Angeles-based firm in 1962, he tackled jobs that came to him — modest apartment houses, shopping centers and the like,” Stern said.

Gehry graduated from the University of Southern California and then studied city planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His first building project for a major institution was at Yale, where in 1990 he completed the Psychiatric Institute, now the Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, located on Liberty Street.

Stern said Gehry, who holds an honorary degree from the University, is in many ways “a Yale man.” Gehry first came to Yale as a visiting professor in 1979, and is currently teaching a design seminar as the Louis Kahn Visiting Professor.

Not all the attendees were impressed with Gehry’s talk, though. Garrett Wong ’09 said that though he considers Gehry to be among the most inspirational figures in the field of architecture, he was disappointed by the discussion.

“He talked about how he’s kind of a recluse and hides in his bed with a blanket pulled over his head,” Wong said.

Gehry said his background in urban planning influenced his design of the Nets arena, which is part of developer Bruce Ratner’s controversial redesign of the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

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