An Apology Letter to Frank Gehry

Author: Evan Sack

In “An Apology Letter to Frank Gehry,” Evan Sack provides an interesting look into Frank Gehry’s work by apologizing for the fact that he had viewed the architect’s work in a negative way up until writing this essay.  Upon the critique and analysis of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Sack presents the stylistic qualities and decisions that make the museum great.  This is important because many people do not take time to understand what the architect was trying to convey with their work before writing it off as unsuccessful. – Editor: Daniel Kleypas


Mr. Gehry,

Your work is incredibly polarizing, particularly for anyone passionate about architecture.  In fact, so polarizing that for the past three years, I have hated your work with a similar passion.  However, I am writing to apologize for so quickly discrediting your architectural creations as work with no valuable theory or justification for its design decisions. To be completely transparent, I still feel this strongly about much of your work, but in the 1997 article “The Miracle in Bilbao,” Herbert Muschamp makes a compelling argument for the validity of what I would call “Architecture as Art” (Lange 2012).

In undergraduate design studios, it seems quite universal that students are encouraged and expected to create architecture that is justified beyond objective analysis. This sentiment is echoed by an article published on ArchDaily titled “Why Architecture Isn’t Art (And Shouldn’t Be).” This argument is highly toxic to the profession and presents an argument that architects do not have room for creative expression purely for the sake of creative expression. Muschamp’s argument presents the Guggenheim Bilbao as the complete antithesis of this sentiment. This project was an appropriate use of architecture as art because its purpose was not just to function as a display case for art, but also to push the boundaries of the artists whose work it contains. The project is so loud and flamboyant that it intentionally forces the artwork that it contains to address questions of site and community. The museum is attempting to create such a dramatic and emotionally charged space to illicit creative thinking from its audience while also bringing the artwork it contains to a more engaging level.


Arguments against using personal taste to design architecture are still valid, as subjective reasoning is not always appropriate. But in the case of the Guggenheim Bilbao, we see an experienced architect exercising an expression of personal inspiration that has in turn sparked an emotional response world-wide. Allowing this design mentality to exist is an party of why architects must be licensed professionals. Architecture is a very permanent expression that must collect function, beauty, social commentary, and a whole host of other issues into a massive financial investment. To attempt a solution via a project of this scale, that serves also to question the basis of architectural education, is a daunting task.  To succeed in this endeavor is endlessly impressive.

I am not at all convinced that the use of such provocative architecture is appropriate in every setting, but the purpose it serves in this project is important for the profession. I intend to still be highly critical of any future “Gehry” designs, now more so than ever, but I must apologize for my previous misjudgment of your architectural motives.


A Reluctant Fan.


Hosey, Lance. “Why Architecture Isn’t Art (And Shouldn’t Be).” ArchDaily. N.p., 08 Mar. 2016. Web.
Lange, Alexandra. Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2012. Print. pp. 45-69.

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