architecture

Inside the spectacular home Frank Gehry built for himself

Published 13th March 2019
Credit: Courtesy Jason Schmidt
Inside the spectacular home Frank Gehry built for himself
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
He built his reputation through striking, unconventional urban monuments like the Guggenheim in Bilbao and LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall. But for his latest project, Frank Gehry looked a little closer to home.
The world-renowned architect, who turned 90 last month, has been overseeing the design of a new Santa Monica residence for him and his wife, Berta. In an Architectural Digest exclusive, Gehry discussed the rare opportunity to work on a small-scale building, calling the result "a once-in-a-lifetime house."
Courtesy Jason Schmidt
The structure's exterior is, in many ways, typical of the Pritzker Prize-winner's oeuvre. Glass planes and gabled roofs shoot off at a variety of angles, giving the house a dynamic, sculptural quality. But the design was in fact led by his son, Sam, who works as an architectural designer at his father's firm.
Building a new home was, in part, a practical move for the aging architect. While Frank has been outspoken about his refusal to retire, the residence was designed with an elevator and space for live-in help, should he and his wife need it.
Overlooking both Santa Monica Canyon and the Pacific Ocean, the design comprises two separate wings. The first contains living areas, a study, a kitchen, an upstairs master suite and a dining room (decorated with Frank's iconic fish lamps, naturally), and was largely constructed using Douglas fir wood. The second wing, to the building's rear, features additional bedrooms, a gym and a classical music room, where the couple intends to host concerts.
Courtesy Jason Schmidt
Frank has long expressed his hope of leaving the family's previous home, also in Santa Monica, where he lived with his wife since 1978. Known simply as the Gehry Residence, the compound is considered a fine early example of the Deconstructivist movement that he went on to spearhead in the 1980s. The house -- which is also where Sam grew up -- has since become a sightseeing destination for architecture enthusiasts.
Yet, Frank reportedly felt burdened by the compound's reputation, telling the New York Times in 2005 that he was "emotionally trapped because it was this icon." Around 15 years ago, he bought a plot of land in LA's Venice neighborhood, although plans to build a home there were subsequently abandoned.
Courtesy Jason Schmidt
After securing a new plot in Santa Monica, and demolishing the property previously there, Frank and Sam devised their new scheme for the site. Sam said the pair had been open to selling the home if it proved unsuitable, though the idea was dropped as the project progressed.
"(Frank) would come in and say, 'Let's do this, let's add that,'" he told Architectural Digest for its April cover story. "It kept getting more personal and more fun."
And despite spending his career leading projects, not commissioning them, Frank expressed his satisfaction with the collaboration.
"He has truly been a great partner, and we have made a once-in-a-lifetime house," he's quoted as saying. "I have really loved working with him."