“Let me tell you one thing. In the world we live in, 98 percent of what gets built and designed today is pure shit.”
This was the response of the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry when a journalist in Spain asked him what his thoughts were about criticism his architecture was pure show, as reported in in El Mundo (link in Spanish). He continued by saying, “There’s no sense of design nor respect for humanity or anything. They’re bad buildings and that’s it.”
Gehry—the man who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles—was in Oviedo, Spain on Oct. 23 receiving the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for his impact on the arts when he let loose. And while the 85-year-old should have probably been talking about the opening of the $135-million LVMH museum in Paris (paywall), which he designed, that’s not what most of the journalists took from the event.
Gehry apologized later, saying his quick temper was due to travel fatigue. Nevertheless, Gehry did have some positive words to say about the transformative effect of his iconic museum in Bilbao: “Remember that in Bilbao, people got their degree at the university and then they left. Nobody wanted to live there. It was a sad city. The steel industry was in decline, the port had no reason to exist, everyone lost their jobs,” Gehry told journalists.
And there’s some truth to that. After the Guggenheim Museum was built in Bilbao, the previously poor town turned into a thriving tourist destination, even leading to the term “Guggenheim effect” to characterize how it transformed the city.
Gehry is not the first famous architect to badmouth others in his profession. When Frank Lloyd Wright visited Miami in 1955, he famously said, “Miamians live in houses pigs would be ashamed to live in.”