2000 - Frank Gehry 1929 -

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Designer: Gehry, Frank O. (1929-)
Copyright: Danielle Tinero/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (1998)

Canadian-born, US citizen Frank Gehry took architecture by the scruff of its diffident neck and dumped it firmly in the public arena. The Bilbao Effect has become a by-word among clients and politicians looking to engender change in their environments. As a result, because he cannot fulfil all their commissions, a host of imitators have tried and often failed to imitate his iconic success, largely because icons without the big ideas behind them simply do not work.


The citation by Peter Cook, one of the jurors, reads: ‘No-one who believes in the power of architecture as a creative and artistic force can deny the contribution which has already been made by this master architect who, at the age of 71, is still at the height of his powers as a designer.


'His method is to make innumerable models: in cardboard, styrofoam or anything else which comes by. These sit in his studio on sculptors’ turntables and Frank will tour the on-going projects, pushing-pulling-tweaking and planting bits and pieces with pins, working very much in the manner of his sculptor friends. In recent years, his office has developed a series of techniques whereby these models can be 'traced' by computer-linked sensors, by-passing many of the tedious 'drawn' processes of architectural production, but producing forms of extreme complexity, with great accuracy.


Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

Designer: Frank O. Gehry & Associates
Copyright: Roland Halbe/RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection (2003)

‘This is the means by which the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was created. In this one building, Gehry displays extraordinary virtuosity in the manipulation of space, but also the ability to compose a subtle arrangement of experiences, some of which can also be calm, some haunting.


‘His practice has produced libraries, museums, university buildings, headquarters, social housing and innumerable private houses, some of which will remain a unique reminder that the 20th century has been rich in the development of an architectural language.'