Frank Gehry turns 90 today and is just as lively as ever. The famed architect, according to a recent interview with Architectural Record, celebrated the milestone birthday in Berlin at the Pierre Boulez Saal concert hall, which he designed. Conductor Daniel Barenboim arranged for a youth orchestra (young musicians from Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt) to perform a special concert dedicated to the legend.
Over the years, the irreverent Gehry has been outspoken about buildings, his influences (the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini among them), the role of the architect, and many other topics. AD has compiled its favorite witticisms from the man who says it like he sees it. And don't even think about asking him to retire—or take a vacation!
On His Aesthetic Choices
“I don't want to do architecture that's dry and dull.” —from an interview with The Guardian in 2011
“I don’t think I have repeated myself... You can’t escape your signature. A man who was considered one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, Mies van der Rohe, repeated himself endlessly. But if it’s good, it’s good.” —from a 2013 interview with the Financial Times
[After designing a building] "...It’s the ‘then what’ that I’m interested in. What else can the building give you?” —Gehry in conversation with Ai Weiwei in T: The New York Times Style Magazine, in early February
“A well-designed home has to be very comfortable. I can't stand the aesthetes, the minimal thing. I can't live that way. My home has to be filled with stuff—mostly paintings, sculpture, my fish lamps, cardboard furniture, lots of books.” —from a 2011 interview with ArchDaily
On Architecture Today
“The present is filled with flotsam and irony and chaos and disorder in all arenas, political and sociological. And this is reflected in every form of the arts. I think we have to work in the present even if it’s awkward, even if it’s not necessarily good, even if we don’t understand it ourselves. You only find out 10, maybe 20 years later what was going on.” —from a 2012 conversation with Interview
“Let me tell you one thing. In this world we are living in, 98 percent of everything that is built and designed today is pure shit. There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else. They are damn buildings and that’s it.” —Gehry said at a 2014 press conference in Spain in which he famously gave a reporter the finger
“Green issues have been used as a marketing tool. Sometimes these green claims are completely meaningless.” —Gehry told The Independent in 2009
“Look, architecture has a lot of places to hide behind, a lot of excuses. ‘The client made me do this.’ ‘The city made me do this.’ ‘Oh, the budget.’ I don’t believe that anymore. In the end, you have to rise above them...and at the point when I make a choice, the building starts to look like a Frank Gehry building. It’s a signature.” —from a 2011 interview with The Atlantic
“I refuse to work unless I get paid, so I don't get a lot of work sometimes.” —Gehry said to Justin Shubow in a report titled "The Gehry Towers Over Eisenhower: The National Civic Art Society Report on Frank Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial"
“I can't just decide myself what's being built. Someone decides what they want, then I work for them.” —from a 2009 interview with The Telegraph
"I don't know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do." —from a 2006 interview with The Wall Street Journal
“I've never really gone out looking for work. I always waited for it to sort of hit me on the head.” —from a 2002 Ted Talk
On His Personal Life and Ethos
"I love working. I don't know what the word vacation means." —during a 2015 PBS NewsHour interview
“I told my staff that when I was 80 I would slow down. Well, I did, but not much. I don’t feel like 80. I guess you never think you’re the age you are, and, as long as you don’t look in the mirror, you aren’t.” —Gehry told Paul Goldberger in The New Yorker in 2009
"My profession has all these rules about what fits and what doesn't. The kind of buildings I was designing didn't conform to any particular architectural philosophy, and many of my colleagues were dismissive of me and made fun of my work. When I would discuss this with Milton [Wexler, Gehry's friend and psychoanalyst], he would say, 'Screw them! There aren't any rules. Just because they did it that way last week doesn't mean you have to do it that way today.'" —Gehry recounted to writer Gillian Zoe Segal in her 2015 book Getting There: A Book of Mentors