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Let’s Not Pretend This Is The First Time Frank Gehry Has Sounded Like A Jerk

98% of architecture is “shit,” the starchitect said recently. That’s far from the worst thing he has said about cities.

Let’s Not Pretend This Is The First Time Frank Gehry Has Sounded Like A Jerk
[Top photo: Larry Marano/Getty Images]

Frank Gehry is probably the most quotable architect working today. At 85 years old, with enough star power to blind the sun (and get Brad Pitt to show up uninvited to his parties), the architect is far beyond giving a crap what people think about him. His latest PR kerfluffle, in which he flipped off a journalist and called 98% of architectureshit,” has the architecture press aflutter.

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But who’s surprised? Gehry is a career grouch, as famous for complaining about his profession as he is for designing swoopy buildings. Here’s a cursory rundown of just a few of the other times he’s called modern cities awful (and more colorful adjectives) in recent memory:

Almost 20 years ago, in a 1995 interview with The Academy of Achievement, he sticks to calling city planning “nonsense.”

City planning? Forget it. It’s a kind of bureaucratic nonsense. It has nothing to do with ideas. It only has to do with real estate and politics.

In the last few years, he’s gotten far less diplomatic about his feelings on urban planning and city design. In a 2009 interview with The Independent:

Look, I went to city planning school at Harvard and I discovered that you never got to change a fucking thing or do anything. Urban planning is dead in the US.

And as far as the aesthetics of cities? Complete crap. From an interview with Architectural Record in 2009:

So when somebody asks me if I’m an artist, I always say no, I’m an architect. Because the social mores today are that architecture is not an art. It’s the engineering, matter-of-fact stuff to solve housing and provide offices and things like that. So I don’t see it as that, but if the rest of the world wants to see it that way, maybe it’s their lack of interest in it today that allows every city in the world to look crappy.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2012, he reminds us again that modern cities just aren’t living up to Frank Gehry’s expectations:

There is a backlash against me and everyone who has done buildings that have movement and feeling…Most of our cities built since the war are bland…They’re modernist, they’re cold, and now architects want to go back to that.

Apparently, cities just aren’t taking architecture seriously. From a 2013 interview with Los Angeles magazine:

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Los Angeles doesn’t take architecture seriously, though I guess you could say that about most cities.

And at this point, calling cities crappy is pretty run-of-the-mill for a Gehry interview. In a 2013 chat with Foreign Policy:

The worst thing is when you go to places like Dubai. They’re on steroids, but they just end up looking like American or European cities with these anonymous skyscrapers–like every cruddy city in the world.

During the same interview, he espouses a certain affinity for Robert Moses (whom most urbanists accuse of trying to ruin New York City in the ’60s) and, uh, dictators:

I think the best thing is to have a benevolent dictator–who has taste! It’s really hard to get consensus, to have a tastemaker. There is no Robert Moses anymore. Michael Bloomberg wants to be one. In fact, he promised he would build 10 more of my buildings in New York, but, you know, he hasn’t yet. Architecture’s difficult … [sigh]

This actually wasn’t his first time making that point. He made a similar statement to Wallpaper magazine in 2011 (later excerpted by City Lab):

What we need is a benevolent dictator. That’s who built some of the best cities. So a Robert Moses, somebody with a vision. You don’t find many of them.

So yes, Frank Gehry really does think your city looks crappy. The only real solution: find ourselves a nice dictator!

At least he’s self-aware. He is known to occasionally don “Fuck Frank Gehry” T-shirts, and only a few weeks ago, the fiery starchitect very politely listened to Ariana Grande perform as part of a French television appearance, with nary a middle finger in sight.

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.

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