May's Featured Architect: Frank Gehry

There are very few architects that are as widely celebrated and recognized today as Frank Gehry. Honestly, at this point, Frank stands alone at the top. A constant innovator, a disruptor of traditional practices, and a creative visionary, Frank has designed iconic buildings that are found all over the world, and each of them is more stunning and unique than the next. His works stand alone and are unaligned with any traditional styles, and he’s played a crucial role in shaping a whole new chapter of architecture and design.

In addition to being known as a revolutionary, Frank is also famously known for being unapproachable and is often dubbed by people in the industry as being difficult to work with. In my personal experience spending some time with Frank a few years ago, I found the complete opposite to be true.

At the time, I was working on the design advisory team for the Obama Foundation to select an architect for the Obama Presidential Center, and the director asked me to pick up Frank from the airport, as we were going to be visiting site locations together. After picking Frank up at the airport, we headed over to Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago and ended up spending the entire day together, looking at potential building sites and talking about his long career in the business and all our common connections. It’s a small world.

It was great getting to know Frank better and learn more about him, and later we were even joined by Don Gummer, an accomplished world-class sculptor and the husband of Meryl Streep. Both of them had agreed to provide suppport to the same design advisory team.

During the day, I mentioned to Frank that I was going to be seeing the world-renowned architect Gyo Obata, the Founder of HOK. Frank then told me that I should also say hello to his old friend. Two days later, I saw Gyo and mentioned that I had just met Frank recently, and that Frank had mentioned that Gyo was one of his good friends. Gyo then told me that he had great fondness and memories of Frank, but then laughed and mentioned it had been fifty years since they were last together! Needless to say, Frank is a surprising person that you never forget, and he definitely makes an impact on everyone that he meets.

In addition to getting to meet Frank himself, it was one of the best days that I can remember. I had the chance to see a side of Frank that I don’t think many people get to see, and it’s a great memory that I am reminded of every time I see one of his buildings or read about his work. Frank is a true visionary and a towering figure in contemporary architecture, and I’m grateful to have spent a few times with him and can call him my friend. I’m sure we will continue to see great new innovations, teachings, and work from Frank and his team.

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