PRINT May 2018



Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao, 1997.

NO LIVING ARCHITECT has done more to change the face of the field than Frank Gehry. Many of his works—the Guggenheim Bilbao among them—are world-famous attractions, while his pioneering engagement with digital modeling software has permanently altered the way buildings are designed and constructed around the globe. Here, as part of Artforum’s ongoing conversation series about museum architecture, senior editor Julian Rose speaks with Gehry about art, architecture, technology, and the complex interplay among them.

Frank Gehry, Danziger Studio and Residence, 1965, Hollywood, CA. Photo: Michael Moran/OTTO.

JULIAN ROSE: Not many architects can say they have a cultural phenomenon named after their work. But it’s been two decades since your Guggenheim building opened and people still refer to the “Bilbao effect” to describe the transformative impact that architecture can have on a city. That project unquestionably changed architecture’s role on the global stage—is it also fair to say that museum design has played a key role in your own practice?

FRANK GEHRY: The whole topic of museum design is precarious for me.

JR: Precarious in what sense?

FG: Soon after I finished Bilbao, the director of an LA museum told me he had attended a professional conference where a resolution was passed to not let me do another museum, ever.

JR: They didn’t quite succeed, did they?

FG: But I didn’t get to build another museum for a long time. The Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris was the next big one, and that opened in 2014.

View of Frank Gehry’s Temporary Contemporary, 1983, Los Angeles. Photos: Tim Street-Porter.

JR: I take your point that the Guggenheim Bilbao has been controversial. It’s ironic that, for all its influence on how museums are understood within culture at large—especially in terms of tourism and development—the building has not become a prototype of museum architecture. It’s also true that museums are not your primary building typology.

But I would still argue that your work is marked by an exceptionally close connection to the visual arts. So maybe I should rephrase: Is it fair to say that a connection between art and architecture is at the core of your practice?

FG: I was into art from the beginning, because my mother used to take me to the museum as a child in Toronto. I fell in love with painting at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and then, many years later, I got to do an addition to that building, which was an amazing experience. I used to draw all the time, too. I was a curious kid. On Friday evenings I would go to lectures on music and art at the University of Toronto.

JR: You studied architecture at the University of Southern California in the early 1950s, almost a decade before many of the artists we associate with the postwar scene in Los Angeles—the “cool school” and so on—became established. After your initial exposure to art history, how did you develop a relationship to practicing artists?

FG: Well, actually, I ended up in architecture school because of my interest in art. I came out to LA with my family in 1947. We were very poor, so I worked as a delivery-truck driver. I took some night-school classes, including one in ceramics taught by a man named Glenn Lukens, who actually started the ceramics program at USC. We got along, but I think he saw I wasn’t going to be a ceramicist. So one day he took me to visit a house he was building for himself with Raphael Soriano, the modernist architect. Soriano was there, and they were in the middle of construction—they had a rig and were moving these big pieces of steel around—and my eyes lit up.

Glenn must have seen how excited I was, because he insisted I enroll in an architecture class. The art and architecture schools at USC were in the same building, so I spent a lot of time talking to art students. I was always interested in what they were doing.

View of Frank Gehry’s Temporary Contemporary, 1983, Los Angeles. Photos: Tim Street-Porter.

JR: Next you studied urban planning at Harvard, where Josep Lluís Sert was dean. He was famously an advocate of the so-called synthesis of the arts—also advanced by Corbusier and others—wherein architecture would provide a platform for the integration of artistic media. Did you find a fluid interconnection between art and architecture at Harvard similar to that which you’d found in LA?

FG: Sure, we talked about modernist painters a lot: Klee, Kandinsky, Albers, all the Bauhaus guys. While I was there they also had a show of Corbusier’s paintings in the architecture building.

JR: What did you think?

FG: I had mixed feelings. He had just finished Ronchamp [1955]. I love that project, and I could see the beginnings of it in the works in the show. It made me think, Here’s an architect who works out his buildings through his paintings. That was interesting. But at the same time, his paintings weren’t great, you know? They were derivative of all those people he hung out with. He wasn’t a painter, he was an architect.

View of Frank Gehry’s Temporary Contemporary, 1983, Los Angeles. Photos: Tim Street-Porter.

JR: You were intrigued by the idea of using art to think through architectural problems, but you felt that in this case the work was unoriginal?

“The whole topic of museum design is precarious for me.” —Frank Gehry

FG: I wasn’t interested in him as a model. I remember that one of Corbusier’s assistants who had worked on Ronchamp was enrolled in the architecture school at Harvard at the time. Every building the guy designed looked like Ronchamp. It was fascinating to watch him.

JR: Also exasperating, I imagine! In retrospect, your frustration at Harvard isn’t surprising, because the modernist version of a synthesis of the arts was, in practice, about architecture following the lead of painting and sculpture. I think for people like Sert and Corbusier there was a sense that visual artists were the true avant-garde and that architects had the job of translating their aesthetic innovations into built form. At USC it sounds like you had a different experience—developing your work directly in conversation with artists. Was it refreshing to return to LA in the early ’60s as the art scene there was taking off?

FG: Yes. There was an amazing energy in the city, an openness and a sense that new things were happening. One of my first projects after I got back was the studio I did for the graphic designer Lou Danziger on Melrose Avenue, which was finished in 1965. I remember visiting the construction site one day and there was this funny guy wandering around in the structure. He introduced himself as Ed Moses, and I was flabbergasted, because I was already a fan.

He liked what I was doing for Lou and invited me to remodel his house. I told him my fee was three hundred dollars. He told me there was no way he was going to pay me three hundred dollars for a design, so the building never happened, but we became very close. He was the first guy in that scene who really connected with what I was doing. He gave me love at a time when I needed it. And he also introduced me to Billy Al Bengston, Larry Bell, and Bob Irwin.

Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao, 1997. Photo: Grant Mudford.

JR: It must have been an exciting moment. Many of these artists were trying to push beyond traditional media just as you were looking for new approaches to architecture.

I’m curious how your contact with these artists influenced your work when it came to designing spaces for the display of art.In 1983, you designed the Temporary Contemporary for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, to house exhibitions while their new permanent home, designed by Arata Isozaki, was under construction. The design was radically simple: You turned an old warehouse into a museum by essentially cleaning out the interiors and sandblasting some of the concrete. The design became very popular, and now, renamed the Geffen Contemporary at MoCA, it’s a permanent part of the institution.

Thanks in part to that project, the minimally renovated industrial space is one of our primary gallery typologies. But in the early ’80s it was a wild idea—leaving the space raw made it closer to an artist’s studio than to a gallery. Was this a new kind of exhibition space that came from hanging out with artists?

FG: Yeah. I loved the way they showed their stuff, the way they lived with it. Bengston would always remodel his dining room for a dinner party. It would look one way and you’d go back a month later and it looked completely different. It still pisses me off that he didn’t photograph any of those spaces—nobody did, because they weren’t being taken seriously in that way. But I thought of his remodeling as a startling kind of artwork. He was making a still life and we were all living in it.

Frank Gehry, Chiat/Day Building, 1991, Los Angeles. Photo: Grant Mudford.

JR: It’s as if you recognized ideas about architecture in Bengston’s work by reading it against the grain. I wonder how that compares to your more direct collaborations with artists. By the mid-’80s, just a few years after you did the Temporary Contemporary, you were working on the Chiat/Day Building [1991], which incorporates a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg. How did that come about?

FG: Claes and I were teaching a class together at the University of Milan, and we asked the students to design a city on an island in the Venetian Lagoon. He and I were working on our own version of the project on the side. None of the buildings were ever developed, but he made a series of models and drawings that I loved. My favorite was a small model of a library in the form of a pair of binoculars standing vertically. He gave it to me and I ended up keeping it in my office in LA.

A few years later, I was working on Jay Chiat’s building. I had decided on a three-part massing, with the entry in the middle and a block of offices on either side. I had figured out what I wanted to do with the offices, but I couldn’t decide how to design the center. One day, I had lunch with Jay. We’d had a few drinks and were sitting in front of a model of the building, and he said, “Frank, tell me what’s going to be in the middle. I can’t wait.” I told him I needed more time, but he pushed and pushed. I happened to look across the room and saw the binoculars, and I realized the scale was just right. So I picked them up and put them down right in the center of Jay’s building. And he loved it.

I called Claes, and he and Coosje [van Bruggen] came to LA. Over the next few years we worked to develop the binoculars into an actual component of the building. I only insisted on one thing: I told them, “If you’re going to be architects, you have to put windows in your design. Otherwise it’s not a building.” My office did all the drawings to make it work as architecture, and we got it built.

“I wanted my project with Claes Oldenburg to show that it was possible to collaborate in a deeper way.” —Frank Gehry

JR: That’s a refreshing contrast to the way architects often deal with the so-called integration of art into urban projects, which is simply to plop a monumental sculpture in front of their building. James Wines infamously described this as the “turd in the plaza” method. But what you’re describing also sounds like an intense and time-consuming process. Do you think the kind of collaboration you had with Claes is too complicated to become common?

FG: It’s funny, because around the time that building opened, I attended a conference—I think it was organized by UCLA—about the relationship between art and architecture. There was an intense discussion about how art in public spaces becomes an afterthought. There were a lot of big artists there, and most of them complained about feeling like second-class citizens. Richard Serra was upset that architects get to do all the big pieces, the buildings, while artists only do the small pieces: the sculptures in the plazas and so on. I wanted my project with Claes to show that it was possible to collaborate in a deeper way. But it was barely discussed in the architecture world, and the art world completely ignored it. I don’t remember any critics writing about it.

Richard Serra, Torqued Ellipses I, II, IV, V, VI, 1996–99, Double Torqued Ellipses I, II, III, 1997–99, and Snake, 1996, weathering steel, variable dimensions. Photo Erika Ede.

JR: In the end, it’s something of an uneasy hybrid; it may have windows like a building, but it can still be read as a blown-up sculpture. Do you think that part of the problem is that, as collaborations become more intense, it becomes more difficult to categorize—and so maybe to talk about—the projects that result?

FG: I have no idea. But to this day, people don’t really discuss it.

JR: The Chiat/Day Building raises questions of scale. You mentioned that Serra, too, posed scale as a central problem in the relationship between art and architecture. How do you feel this issue played out in the Guggenheim Bilbao? There has been criticism of the way some art, particularly Serra’s, looks in the building. Often the argument boils down to some combination of two points: The building’s form competes with the sculptures, and/or the sculptures are dwarfed by the building’s size.

FG: That problem of scale in the galleries was created by Richard himself. The main exhibition space is 430 feet long. In my original design I sectioned that gallery by dividing it along the trusses that run perpendicular to its length. It was supposed to be a series of geometric platforms that would allow work to be displayed in different ways. I didn’t want white-cube galleries, so the spaces wouldn’t be square, but they would still be polygonal. The idea came from an early conversation with Tom Krens [then director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York]. He told me he wanted rectilinear galleries for the artists who are no longer with us and more inventive galleries for contemporary art, so that living artists could interact with the building. That idea has always made sense to me: Make the architecture neutral in some places for the artists who can’t defend themselves, and give it character in other areas so that working artists will want to engage with it. I had that in mind when I designed the lower-level gallery in Bilbao for temporary commissions, and I have had conversations with artists who really liked the idea of messing around with that space—Sol LeWitt used it very inventively, and so did Anselm Kiefer.

Frank Gehry, New York by Gehry, 2010, New York.

JR: What happened to the subdivisions, then?

FG: Richard wanted his work right in the middle of the space. I had nothing to do with where those sculptures were placed. Snake [1994–97], which was commissioned for the opening, is over one hundred feet long, and once it was there the partition walls became impossible. Tom agreed with Richard—he insisted that a big work needed a big space, and it was important to him that the museum would provide that. But I felt it was counterproductive, because the open span made it impossible to look at anything in the space without also looking at the building’s structure. The partition walls were going to follow the trusses, so you wouldn’t see them. Now, when you walk into the gallery, you’re looking at the four-hundred-plus feet of structure that holds up the roof, and I feel like the structure competes with the artwork. Of course, the fact that the gallery was left wide open also meant that Richard could take it over. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in 2005 the museum bought another series of seven of his pieces [“The Matter of Time,” 1994–2005], so now the gallery is completely filled with his sculptures. And I do think that the works themselves are spectacular.

JR: There’s an irony here, because bigger work does require bigger exhibition spaces. But then artists complain that these expanded spaces overpower their work, and they often respond by making their pieces even larger in turn. Sometimes it feels like artists and architects are locked in an arms race—and that’s by no means limited to Bilbao. Do you think it’s possible to create a less competitive relationship?

FG: With Richard, it’s complicated. We’ve been friends on and off, and I love his work. But he doesn’t think very highly of architecture. He told Charlie Rose I was a plumber.

Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao, 1997. Digital rendering.

JR: In some ways, though, this notion of art and architecture being in direct competition seems absurd. I’ve always thought that the idea of a “sculptural building,” in particular, is a paradox. Constructing a building—especially one as formally complex as Bilbao—is nothing like making a sculpture. While you work like an artist in some ways—sketching and modeling by hand, for example—there is also a highly sophisticated technical side of your practice. In fact, you started an entire company, Gehry Technologies, to produce your buildings, and that company is hired by other architects and contractors around the world. Doesn’t your relationship to technology differentiate your practice from that of an artist?

“ Let’s get back to basics: From the beginning, I’ve been interested in building buildings.” —Frank Gehry

FG: Let’s get back to basics: From the beginning, I’ve been interested in building buildings. I grew up with modernism, right after the war, and technology and construction were a big part of the modernist approach to architecture. But when modernism hit a dead end, it created a crisis.

JR: I never thought about the decline of modernism as disrupting architecture’s relationship to technology, but you’re right that postmodernism emphasized representation over construction.

FG: Yeah, exactly. Arthur Drexler, who was the director of the MoMA architecture department for many years, organized a show in 1975 called “The Architecture of the École des Beaux-Arts.” It was a staggeringly beautiful exhibition of renderings of Beaux Arts buildings, and it appeared when contemporary architecture was struggling to find itself. For many, it seemed like a license to retreat into the past, into the world of drawing—and that became postmodernism.

Frank Gehry, Fish, 1992, Barcelona. Digital rendering.

JR: I imagine that did not appeal to you?

FG: I was looking for a way to express feelings without reverting to history, without these nineteenth-century references. I remember thinking a lot about classical sculpture. Why just go back 150 years? I had seen the charioteer, the great Greek bronze at Delphi, when I was in my forties, and it brought tears to my eyes. I keep a picture of that sculpture on my wall as a reminder. Some unknown artist made this thing two thousand years ago and here I am crying over it. That gave me the idea that maybe you could express feelings with inert materials just by giving them shape, without reverting to a style. You could just do it.

JR: But then the question becomes, How do you build those shapes? I could argue that all of the technologies that have developed in architecture since the Renaissance have been geared toward designing, and then building, regular geometries. With very few exceptions, architects haven’t tried to construct organic forms.

FG: While working on the Vitra Design Museum [1989], I designed a stairway that had a complex curve. I used descriptive geometry to draw it, because that’s what I was taught in architecture school. But descriptive geometry failed me in the field. When the contractors built the stair, it had a kink in it.

JR: You’re saying there was a mistake in the construction because you had not been able to accurately represent your design in two dimensions?

FG: It wasn’t really a mistake. There was just no way to draw it, and the contractors had to figure out how to build it the best they could. After that, I asked one of the young architects working for me if he could find another way. Architects were starting to use Autocad, but I knew that was still 2-D, so it wouldn’t help us.

We talked to Dassault, the aerospace company. They had CATIA, this software they were using to build fighter planes, paperless—no drawings. When I saw that, I said, “Holy shit.” I had been trying to figure out how to build this curved stairway, but I realized that the technology had a much bigger application. I know the business of architecture really well, and its norms and methods are, in many cases, archaic. But they still exist, and they result in an enormous waste of materials, time, and effort. I saw a whole new approach not just to design, but to construction.

Daniel Buren, L’observatoire de la lumière (The Observatory of Light), work in situ, 2016, color filters. Photo-souvenir. Installation view, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris. Photo: Philippe Guignard. © DB-ADAGP Paris.

JR: When did you begin incorporating that technology?

FG: The first real test was the pavilion I did for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. I designed it in the shape of a fish. I was interested in it as an expressive form. I thought of it like the Greek sculptures, but going even further back, before art or architectural history, to nature. The contractor said it couldn’t be built. He tried six different mock-ups and they all failed. So I decided we should try this CATIA thing, and we got it done in six months, on budget.

JR: And that’s when you knew you had to make it a part of your process?

FG: Exactly. We talked to Dassault about adapting CATIA for architecture, but they weren’t interested, even though it’s a huge market. So we developed Digital Project, which is our own software based on CATIA, and that’s what we used for the Guggenheim Bilbao. That building also opened on time and on budget.

Over the years, we’ve approached perfection. The apartment tower we did in New York in 2010 had zero change orders for the curtain wall. Can you imagine? Seventy-six stories high, with a very complicated geometry, and not a single mistake during the construction process. The dream is to go even further. What if you could get the building department to use this software for their reviews? If they weren’t looking at drawings, you could get the approval on a huge building in two weeks instead of six months.

“I absolutely don’t think being a purist is any more true to the nature of architecture.” —Frank Gehry

JR: There is no question that these technologies have transformed the way buildings can be made, and I wonder if they should also be changing the way we understand construction theoretically. Modern architecture, like constructivist sculpture, emphasized transparency. The idea was that the outer form of a building, or an artwork, should follow the inner logic of structure. There’s an obvious and almost ethical appeal to this approach—an honesty. Sure enough, some critiques of your architecture focus on the contrast between the exterior form and the interior volumes. This happens in Bilbao, and it’s even more extreme in the Fondation Louis Vuitton [2014] in Paris, because the museum’s outer envelope is glass and the galleries are housed in separate concrete volumes within.

That separation only becomes possible, or at least feasible, when you use the kind of design and construction tools you have developed. Would you argue that one of the benefits of digital-design technologies is that they obviate traditional approaches to structure? Are you trying to take advantage of the freedom this technology provides, and reminding us that interior and exterior no longer have to correspond?

FG: You’re overthinking it. With the Louis Vuitton building, I wasn’t trying to prove a point. It’s simply a matter of circumstance, not intention. Bernard Arnault had acquired the site, which is in the Bois de Boulogne, and there was a strict height restriction on the construction. There had been a bowling alley there, and he was going to knock it down and build the museum in its place. The city said that any new construction couldn’t be any taller than that original building. That wasn’t going to work for a museum, so Bernard and I met with Bertrand Delanoë, who was then the mayor of Paris. I told him there's a long tradition of building glass structures in parks, conservatory-type buildings. Right in Paris there’s the Grand Palais. We talked about the Crystal Palace in London. But of course you can’t hang paintings on glass, so I envisioned a building with a double skin. I asked the mayor: If we made a glass shell with the museum inside of it, would that work? He loved the idea. He said, “Show me what it would look like.” So based on that conversation, I designed a building with a double skin, which separates the solid structure, the building itself, from what I think of as the persona of the building, the glass volumes.

Frank Gehry, Fondation Louis Vuitton, 2014, Paris. Photo: Iwan Baan.

JR: But does that create a problematic split between the museum as urban icon and the spaces within? Are you divorcing the galleries from the building’s architecture and separating a visitor’s experience of the architecture from their experience of the art?

FG: Not at all. It’s all a hybrid. The idea is to provide many different kinds of space to display art. There are some very traditional galleries, sure, but the building itself can also be used as a platform. One of the things that most excited me about this approach to the design is that it created outdoor spaces between the glass skin and the solid volumes, and I had a feeling that this space would be perfect for sculpture. At first the curators were skeptical, because it was a totally nontraditional space, but I called up Jeff Koons and some other artists I’m close to and talked to them about it—they all thought it would be exciting to bring their work into a site like that. So I remember I made a model where I filled that in-between space with artworks. I was trying to say to both the client and the artists that this is not a precious space. It’s supposed to be used, it’s supposed to be interactive and collaborative. And artists have shown that they’re up for it. Look at what Daniel Buren did in 2016—he put colored panels all over the exterior.

JR: How did you feel about that? Buren has a genius for creating maximally disruptive interventions in buildings and public spaces. Some of his projects could be described as downright hostile. In 1971, the Guggenheim famously removed his Painting-Sculpture, which completely filled Wright’s atrium, from their International Exhibition.

“ We have to remember that historically architecture was always considered one of the arts.” —Frank Gehry

FG: Daniel and I have been close friends for years. Sure, when you give him a chance he’ll be overpowering, but I feel that the building is up for that kind of intervention. I’m actually the one who invited him to work on the building itself. He had already been commissioned to do something for the foundation, but it was going to be a kind of gateway in the park that visitors would pass through as they approached. I saw the proposal and told him he should take on the architecture instead. And then he completely overwhelmed my building with those little colored rectangles. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for me or my building, but I think it’s important for artists to do things like that and for architects not to be fussy about it. People talk about it, and artists realize that the building is something they can play with, and I hope others come and do more interesting stuff. I think of it as an extension of the great French gothic tradition of putting sculpture on a building—Chartres, Notre-Dame.

JR: Do you think that combination of art and architecture broadens the museum’s appeal?

FG: I remember that soon after I had finished my own house in 1978, Daniel came to visit me. I think he was with Michael Asher and Benjamin Buchloh, and we got to talking about museums. He asked me what kind of building was best for showing contemporary art. I didn’t want to piss anyone off, so I basically gave them the spiel most architects give, even today: Museums should be neutral and flexible and should be considered a backdrop for the art, blah-blah-blah.

I was shocked by Daniel’s response. He said simple and neutral was the worst. He wanted to be shown in an important building. And you know, it’s true. The Louvre isn’t the ideal place to show a painting—it’s an old palace. But it’s one of the most important buildings in Paris. If an artist has a show there, he can go home and tell his mother, “Look, I got a painting in the Louvre!” So a museum should stand out. It needs a persona to help define the city’s landscape—just like a courthouse, or a church, or a city hall, or a library, or any of the buildings that have historically played an important part in the design of our cities.

Two views of Frank Gehry’s Gehry Residence, 1977–78, Santa Monica, CA. Photo, Tim Street-Porter/OTTO.

JR: That’s a convincing argument for powerful architecture, but I’m not sure it is incompatible with a desire for simplicity. Couldn’t someone argue that a white cube is more honest, or more pure, and therefore more powerful as architecture?

FG: I absolutely don’t think being a purist is any more true to the nature of architecture.

You’re right that some critics look at my buildings and complain that the interior walls don’t correspond to the exterior walls. But making a building where the two are perfectly lined up isn’t any simpler or any more honest. Let’s take the example of a small wood house, like they used to build in the ’50s. You see one of these under construction, with all the wood studs framed up, and it’s so beautiful you could die—just a simple timber frame, totally pure, right? I used to see thousands of those tract houses being built when I was driving around Southern California. I loved looking at them.

But then what happens? You bring in the plumbers, you bring in the electricians, you bring in the HVAC contractor, and everybody starts drilling holes in the studs and moving things around and then taping it all back together. They totally violate the structure—they torture the purity out of that thing. So, there’s a conflict between this idea of an ideal structure and all the things you need to put into a building to make it a building.

JR: So you’re saying that the appearance of honesty is itself a kind of fabrication?

FG: Absolutely. And when you try to make a building with a tight skin stretched over the structure, it costs a fortune. Go to Mies van der Rohe’s pavilion in Barcelona and look at the columns intersecting with the roof slab. It’s so beautiful, this thin column hitting a roof that’s just six or eight inches thick. But then you look at the drawings and you realize that it’s not even a structural connection, it’s just two things touching! And you start to understand all the structural gymnastics Mies had to go through to make that building look honest.

That’s why I have always said we should separate the mechanical elements of the building from elements that provide shelter. And if you have a cavity between the exterior and the interior where mechanical systems can go, then they can also be changed without completely taking apart the building, and if you’re making architecture in the twenty-first century, that seems like a good idea. So we can argue forever about the inner skin and the outer skin and how far apart they should be and how much they can deviate from each other, but at the end of the day the space in between isn’t wasted.

JR: When Serra called you a plumber it obviously wasn’t a compliment. But maybe the plumbing is the point. It’s easy to forget that the relationship between how something looks and how it is made is often profoundly different in architecture as opposed to art—there’s certainly a different relationship between form and structure, and maybe even between appearance and reality.

FG: A lot of ideas about purity and simplicity come from art and don’t square with the everyday problems of building. This doesn’t mean architecture is any more complicated than art. But you can’t take an idea from one and expect it to work in the other.

But I also think part of the problem is that we need to update our artistic reference points. When we talk about purity, who are we thinking of? Ad Reinhardt? I love those black paintings, but that’s not the only way to make art. I love Malevich, too, but painting didn’t end after he stripped it down to a square. A lot of artists today—Koons, say—are working more like architects. They’re using technology, they’re directing fabricators, they’re hiring consultants. They’re not craftsmen. Why hold architects to this anachronistic standard?

Two views of Frank Gehry’s Gehry Residence, 1977–78, Santa Monica, CA. Photo, Grant Mudford.

JR: So maybe, in the end, the similarities between art and architecture are just as important to keep in mind as the differences?

FG: We have to remember that historically architecture was always considered one of the arts. Giotto was an artist who became an architect. The same is true of Bernini, Borromini, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo . . . I could go on.

People blame architecture for a lot of things today—they complain that every city looks the same. Well, I agree, but architecture isn’t what’s building our cities anymore. Our cities look that way because of economics, because of politics, because of development. Maybe if we thought about architecture as art again we could start to change that.