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Analysis of Frank Gehry as a De-constructivist Postmodern Architect

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Frank Gehry is a de-constructivist and one of the most recognizable figures of postmodern architecture. Postmodern architecture is an architectural movement which has shown in the mid of the twentieth century, as a reaction against the strict rules, formality, lack of variation, and ignorance of history and culture of the modern architectural style, which was at its peak domination at that time. However, it was the first spark of change after the architect and architectural theorist Robert Venturi has written (Venturi) his book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966 describing modern architecture as a doctrine and calling for complex and contradictory architecture based on the richness and ambiguity of modern experience. Venturi called for architecture that is hybrid, diverse, messy, and compromised, architecture that imbodies unity of inclusion rather than exclusion. Since then, many architects and pioneers have opened their eyes on the very diverse and free of obligations architecture that could be made. At that time, the Canadian architect Frank Gehry was just starting his professional private career, with having his pre-qualities and the filed freely wide open for contributions, as a result, Gehry succeeded to set a new dimension of postmodern architecture.

Gehry’s works lay under de-constructivism, which is a late postmodern approach in architecture that has developed from Semiotics by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Further, it encourages radical freedom of form and the open manifestation of complexity in a building rather than strict attention to functional concerns and conventional design elements such as right angles or grids (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). De-constructivism mainly seeks to expose deep-seated contradictions in a work by looking below its surface meaning, which means that a thing or a design could have different meanings, it only depends on how it is being interpreted.

According to Derrida, reading texts that are constructed in a classical way is easier for deconstruction. Likewise, deconstructivist architecture requires the existence of a definite archetypal construction, so that it can be deconstructed. Accordingly, the best example of this technique in Gehry designs is Gehry’s Santa Monica Residence, it has been achieved in braking and deconstructing the traditional suburban house design by enveloping it with an unfinished industrial look façade with changing the conventional spatial arrangements and massing of the existing building. Moreover, by putting the kitchen in the old house driveway outside the frame of the house, Gehry succeeded in braking the old house boundaries, resulting in making a collision that brakes the borders between the inside/outside, interiority/exteriority. This kind of deconstruction of duality is a major postmodern characteristic.

Another approach which is very obvious in all Gehry designs is the absolute rejection of an ideal form or a perfect shape for a particular activity, which relates to postmodernism as a kind of refusal of strict rules of modern architecture, the architecture of typologies. Instated, Gehry uses the free play approach, creating and designing curvy unconventional gravity-defying buildings, combined with the use of strange unordinary materials such as corrugated metal, stainless steel, special types of glass, and even titanium.

In addition, Gehry can also be described as a man of Neo-expressionism. It is very notable that most of his designs look like unfinished structures, as he thinks that unfinished structures are more poetic than super precise finished stuff. Moreover, he connects back this fascination with his obsession of unfinished art paintings in early stages of his life. Neo-expressionism is a notion that showed in the late twentieth century as a rejection of modern ideal concepts, and it is considered as a part of postmodern architecture.

The issue of history and place was an important consideration by Gehry in the creating and designing of The Bilbao effect as people call it, Frank says about Guggenheim “I spent a lot of time making the building relate to the 19th century street module and then it was on the river, with the history of the river, the sea, the boats coming up the channel. It was a boat.” With all what has been mentioned before, I personally consider Frank Gehry among the First real postmodern architects. When a group of Architects have been distinguished as Postmodern when they were doing nothing but ordinary mesian buildings covered with a nostalgic façade, Frank never was a part of this, instead, he created a nonconventional steel structures that were true buildings with relation between the inside and the outside, covered with the use of new materials.

To conclude, although that Gehry refuses to call himself a de-constructivist or a postmodernist, his designs are considered as a major contribution in de-construction and postmodern architecture. Nevertheless, Gehry says that he is not trying to start a new school of architecture, describing himself only as an architect who is trying to respond to its time. However, with all this comes the question that, will this fascination and excitement of design last, having inspired a new generation by the school of Gehry. The twentieths century has started with Art Nouveau effecting Gaudi, Wright, and the late-period Le Corbusier with its curvy lines. And in the decades after the world war II, Machines, Aircrafts, and manufacturing advancements have been the main inspiration for the modernist architecture. These periods have been pushing many of their fans to the borderlines of far creation and innovation. As a consequent, we can consider Gehry designs as an embodiment of future, representing the era of technological advancements and visual stimulation. 

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