L.A. Architecture: Frank Gehry’s Iconic Buildings

Before moving to L.A. I knew Frank Gehry was a prize-winning architect whose best-known works included: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain; the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; the Dancing House in Prague; the Vitra Design Museum and the museum MARTa Herford in Germany; and 8 Spruce Street in New York City. When I moved here, I found out that Gehry is based in L.A. and a long-time resident of Santa Monica, his house not very far from where I live. I also learned that about other famous Gehry buildings around L.A.’s Westside. So, last month, I decided to see and photograph Gehry’s house and other works of the famous architect in neighborhoods I’ve come to know well.

The Gehry Residence, located near the corner of Washington Ave. and 22nd St., in Santa Monica, is hardly a conventional home. It clearly clashes with the rest of the houses and, while I like its quirkiness, I can see why it was not a welcomed addition to the neighborhood back in 1977, when Gehry was not even a known architect. Frank and Berta Gehry bought a pink bungalow that was originally built in 1920. Gehry chose to wrap the outside of the house with a new exterior while still leaving the old exterior visible. He used unconventional materials such as chain link fences and corrugated steel in the house. The rear and south facades were hardly touched and to the other sides of the house he wedged in titled glass cubes.

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The Binoculars Building (formerly known as the Chiat/Day building), at 340 Main St, in Venice Beach, was built in 1991. It is currently home to Google, as part of its expansion in Southern California. The building is notable for the three different styles used in the main facade on Main Street, particularly the massive sculpture of binoculars designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The entrance to the parking garage is between the lenses of the binoculars. Unfortunately, unless you know someone at Google, you won’t be able to enter the building or the binoculars. It is indeed a very interesting and quirky piece of architecture.

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The Venice Beach House, at 2509 Ocean Front Walk, was designed in 1984 for artist Lynn Norton and writer William Norton. Much like Gehry’s own house in Santa Monica, the Norton House is a sculptural assemblage of everyday materials. It comprises several box-like units. The study pod, elevated on a massive support post, resembles the lifeguard stations on Venice beach. It’s not a pretty building but it is exquisite and it must be very pleasant to live in with lots of outdoor spaces to take in the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.

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The Walt Disney Concert Hall, at 111 S. Grand Ave. is one of Gehry’s most beautiful works, and is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, currently under the direction of maestro Gustavo Dudamel. Gehry was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1999 for his work on the Disney Hall. I have toured the building inside and outside (where there are beautiful gardens and a gorgeous large rose sculpture created for Mrs. Disney). I have also been to the Concert Hall for two performances. It’s magical. This building id definitely my favorite to photograph and to attend events at. And as many times as I go, I always stand in awe of its whimsical beauty.

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Click here to see the Los Angeles Times interview with Gehry about the making of the Disney Hall: http://www.latimes.com/videogallery/77277149/Entertainment/Frank-Gehry-on-the-making-of-Disney-Hall


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