In­ter­na­tion­ally renowned ar­chi­tect and Toronto’s favourite son

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - – SHERI SHEFA

There are few house­hold names in ar­chi­tec­ture, so the fact that Frank Gehry’s name sits on that short list is a feat in it­self.

Re­garded by many as one of the most im­por­tant ar­chi­tects of our time, with a ca­reer span­ning more than four decades, Gehry came from hum­ble be­gin­nings in a mostly Jewish part of down­town Toronto.

Gehry was born in 1929 to Thelma and Irv­ing Gold­berg, who were im­mi­grants from Poland and New York re­spec­tively.

“Mr. Gehry tells sto­ries about buy­ing a carp in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket each week with his grand­mother, Leah Ca­plan, who lived on Beverly Street, and watching the big fish flop in the bath­tub be­fore it was carved into gefilte fish,” the Globe and Mail re­ported in 2014.

Those early mem­o­ries no doubt in­flu­enced his 1980s de­signs of fish-shaped lamps that were moulded with wire and em­bel­lished with glued-on pieces of plas­tic, as well as larger public sculp­tures, in­clud­ing the Stand­ing Glass Fish for the Minneapolis Sculp­ture Gar­den in 1986 and the Fish Sculp­ture for La Vila Olímpica del Poble­nou in Barcelona, Spain, in 1989.

Af­ter mov­ing to Los An­ge­les with his fam­ily at the age of 17, he ob­tained his bach­e­lor of ar­chi­tec­ture de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in 1954 and stud­ied city plan­ning at the Har­vard Uni­ver­sity Grad­u­ate School of De­sign.

Due to his ex­pe­ri­ences with anti-semitism, both as a child and as a stu­dent in Los An­ge­les, he opted to change his last name from Gold­berg to Gehry in 1956. But that de­ci­sion did not impact his will­ing­ness to work with the Jewish com­mu­nity.

In 2000, Gehry con­sid­ered de­sign­ing an ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion of Toronto’s Holy Blos­som Tem­ple. The shul’s ren­o­va­tion, which con­tin­ues to this day, is cur­rently be­ing led by Di­a­mond Sch­mitt Ar­chi­tects.

His lat­est Toronto project is a two-tower build­ing com­plex on King Street West, which was com­mis­sioned by David Mirvish. Upon com­ple­tion, the two tow­ers, con­sist­ing of 92 and 82 floors re­spec­tively, will be among the tallest sky­scrapers in the city.

Gehry is also work­ing to de­sign a Tel Aviv mu­seum com­mis­sioned by the Win­nipeg-based Asper Foun­da­tion that will show­case Jewish achieve­ments.

Per­haps his most crit­i­cally ac­claimed de­sign is the Guggen­heim Mu­seum in Bil­bao, Spain, which was com­pleted in 1997 and has re­ceived many awards.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian En­cy­clo­pe­dia, “the de­sign is no­table for its frag­mented, curv­ing and un­du­lat­ing forms clad in glass, ti­ta­nium and lime­stone.”

Gehry’s Bil­bao de­sign also in­spired the term, the Bil­bao Ef­fect, which is the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of cities through iconic, in­no­va­tive ar­chi­tec­ture.

In ad­di­tion to col­lab­o­rat­ing with Tif­fany and Co. on six jew­elry col­lec­tions, de­sign­ing the of­fi­cial tro­phy of the World Cup of Hockey and the Walt Dis­ney Con­cert Hall in Los An­ge­les, Gehry also made his mark on the Toronto land­scape with his Art Gallery of On­tario ren­o­va­tion in 2008.

Some of Gehry’s other fa­mous works in­clude the Louis Vuit­ton Foun­da­tion in Paris, the MIT Ray and Maria Stata Cen­tre in Cam­bridge, Mass., the Vontz Cen­tre for Molec­u­lar Stud­ies on the Uni­ver­sity of Cincin­nati cam­pus, the Mu­seum of Pop Culture in Seat­tle, the New World Cen­tre in Mi­ami Beach, Fla., the Weis­man Art Mu­seum at the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota in Minneapolis, the Danc­ing House in Prague, the Vi­tra De­sign Mu­seum and the MARTA Her­ford mu­seum in Ger­many, and the Ciné­math­èque Française in Paris.

Gehry is also the re­cip­i­ent of nu­mer­ous awards, in­clud­ing the pres­ti­gious Pritzker Ar­chi­tec­ture Prize and was named a com­pan­ion of the Or­der of Canada.

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