Dark Days for Frank Gehry

We recently wrote about the troubles buffeting Norman Foster.


We recently wrote about the troubles buffeting Norman Foster. This week, it’s Frank Gehry’s turn: The architect synonymous with the 15-year trend towards flashy, destination architecture—witness the Simpsons appearance above—just admitted that he’s laid off 50% of his staff and conducted an interview with the LA Times in which he seems chastened and not a little world weary:


For young architects, the way Gehry has organized his office and
integrated new technology remains an inspiration. But for some of them, his recent work also represents the excesses of a decade that combined easy money and architectural celebrity. They are less interested in the bravura, photogenic icons that Gehry has lately produced — so-called signature buildings by a so-called starchitect — and more compelled by eco-friendly designs or anti-poverty efforts such as those aimed at providing affordable housing in rural areas. Other young architects are looking beyond the star model of architectural practice and toward communal, even anonymous, design initiatives.

Gehry, as the LA Times writes, considers himself something of a put-upon little guy:

And Gehry is clearly stung by the charge that his most mammoth projects — the Brooklyn development, in particular, which was originally planned to include as many as 16 towers — have been vehicles for self-aggrandizement forced on unwilling communities. After all, he has long painted himself as a lonely talent pushed to the periphery of the profession in the early decades of his career by myopic developers and less-principled colleagues.

In his mind, he doesn’t run roughshod over the little guy, as he has
been accused of doing by neighborhood activists in Brooklyn. He is the little guy.

And that’s not all: One of his recently completed buildings,  the Art Gallery of Ontario, looks like an outright disaster. As the Globe and Mail reports, the building is plagued by a leaky ceiling and moisture problems so bad that visitors have had to wipe down windows just to catch the view. Recently, two other buildings Gehry designed, the IAC headquarters and a science-facility on the MIT campus, have also roused the ire of disgruntled clients, claiming shoddy construction work and design flaws.

Meanwhile, two of his projects were put on indefinite hold: A mixed-use development near his iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Atlantic Yards project. Sad news all around for architecture buffs—and likely not the last of it.

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.