Frank Gehry, one of modern architecture’s most famous figures, visited UC Santa Cruz this past weekend to discuss some of the highlights and lessons from his illustrative career. Among many other projects, he designed the Walt Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
Moderated by Vanity Fair and New Yorker writer Paul Goldberger, who is also writing a biography of Gehry’s life, the event is one in a series of talks and events called Foundation Forum. First begun seven years ago, the Foundation Forum is an opportunity to honor “extraordinary individuals and their outstanding contributions to society,” according to the Founders Celebration 2013 website.
As a part of his trip to the campus, Gehry received the UC Santa Cruz Foundation Medal in honor of his innovative contributions to architectural design. He opened his conversation by saying he was “happy with his success” and went on to discuss the many ups and downs of his architectural career.
“When you’re working on a project, there’s got to be some innocence,” Gehry said. “I keep a copy of ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ on my bedside table, because whether you like it or not, we’re all in that world.”
Gehry, noted for his somewhat bizarre, deconstructivist designs and oddly shaped foundations, was quick to say yes when asked if he faced any serious backlash to his work
“No matter what you do, people will have a lot of questions,” Gehry said.
Paul Goldberger, the event’s moderator, said many of these questions are attributable to Gehry’s unique and innovating perception of modern architecture. He claimed that Gehry’s vision was markedly ahead of his time.
“[Gehry’s] imagination outpaced the technology for the ideas he had,” Goldberger said.
After moderating a brief conversation, Goldberger opened up the floor for other people’s questions. One individual asked what Gehry thought of UCSC’s own architectural designs.
“UCSC is not noted for architecture,” Gehry said, “but the good thing here is that if you build a bad building, you can just plant trees in front of it.”
Gehry went on to note that architect Charles Moore “did a nice piece” when constructing Kresge College in the early ‘70s.
The event ended with Gehry listing some architects he admires most, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Erich Mendelsohn and Louis Kahn.
“These guys built things as a way of life,” Gehry said. “Although those were different times, to be able to build the Guggenheim changes a city. That’s the scale I want to work at.”