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Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry (1929-) was born in Canada and moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s. He established himself as one of the most prominent contemporary American architects with his open, curvilinear, diverse and sometimes playful West Coast style. In the last fifty years his work has become internationally renowned and his spontaneity and unexpected choices for structures and materials has brought a sustained energy to the fields of both architecture and furniture design.

Gehry studied architecture at the University of Southern California and then Urban Planning at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, graduating in 1957. While at USC he began working for Victor Gruen and Associates, a position he held off and on until 1960 when he traveled to Paris with his family. He returned to America in 1962, inspired by the work of Constantin Brancusi and Le Corbusier, and established his architecture office in Santa Monica, California. In the late 1960s Gehry, constantly looking to reinvent a material that had been deemed unsuitable for design and also dedicated to producing copious, affordable, environmentally responsible furniture, came out with his "Easy Edges" series. These pieces were made from layers of corrugated cardboard, laminated and supplemented with metal rods within the framework at the appropriate stress points. Gehry's team developed a process that made them so strong that their advertisement featured a Volkswagen being supported mid-air by three of the barstools from the series. He managed to wrangle the cardboard into a structural roller coaster of refined, remarkably fluid shapes, like the "Wiggle" side chair and the "Rocking Chaise Lounge." He wrote that his "intention was to design the ultimate, inexpensive furniture, something that could be sold cheaply and that would be acceptable to the mass market." The set proved to be perhaps too successful, however, and Gehry pulled them from production. Almost a decade later he introduced his "Experimental Edges" series, a more expensive gallery-ready interpretation of his earlier work. "Experimental Edges" featured pieces like the "Little Beaver" armchair and ottoman that was more of a straightforward take on a traditional armchair, again made in corrugated cardboard. Gehry's next experiment in furniture was the Bentwood Collection for Knoll in the 1980s. This work was made by weaving and bending the wood used to make small crates for shipping vegetables. Gehry named each one after a hockey play, like "Powerplay" and "Cross Check."

Of his architecture Gehry wrote that, "I approach each building as a sculptural object, a spatial container, a space with light and air, a response to the context and appropriateness of feeling and spirit." His furniture series are an interesting interpretation of this philosophy, with the "Easy Edges" existing as a solid, molded block of space and the Bentwood Collection as a more skeletal form, letting light pass through freely. Renowned for his early iconoclastic use of corrugated tin, wrought iron, netting and chain link for buildings, including his own residence, Gehry has claimed some large and influential commissions over the years and has been recognized with a number of awards. He is responsible for, among other things, the California Aerospace Museum, the Vitra Design Museum and the Guggenheim Bilbao.

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