Architects: Frank Gehry
Location: Santa Monica, California, USA
Architect: Frank Gehry
References: storiesofhouses.com, The New York Times, greatbuildings.com
Project Year: 1978
Photographs: netropolitan.org, Liao Yusheng, Courtesy of storiesofhouses.com, Flickr - User: Ken McCown
From the architect. When Frank Gehry and his wife bought an existing house in Santa Monica, California, the neighbors did not have the slightest idea that the corner residence would soon be transformed into a symbol of deconstructivism. Gehry, however, knew something had to be done to the house before he moved in. His solution was a bold one in the 1970's that involved the "balance of fragment and whole, raw and refined, new and old" and would strike up controversy.
Gehry actually did keep the existing house almost completely in tact, but not in a conventional manner. The Dutch colonnial home was left in tact and the new house was built around it. Holes were made, walls were stripped, torn down and put up, and the old quiet house became a loud shriek of contemporary style among the neighboring mansions--literally. Neighbors hated it, but that did not change the fact that the house was a statement of art entwined with architecture.
Gehry's design wrapped around three sides of the old house on the ground floor, extending the house towards the street and leaving the exterior of the existing home almost untouched. The interior went through a considerable amount of changes on both if its two levels. In some places it was stripped to reveal the framing, exposing the joists and wood studs. It was repaired according to the addition, showing both old and new elements. This is especially evident when walking through the rooms of the house and passing by both new doors placed by Gehry and older ones originally in the house.
The entrance is barely discernible amidst the jutting angles of the exterior, which Gehry created from wood, glass, aluminum, and chain-link fencing. The apex of the old house peeks out from within this mix of materials, giving the impression that the house is consistently under construction.
In 1991 due to the Gehry family's growth which involved two boys, the house had to be expanded. Even though Gehry tried to maintain the same style of the house, allowing the original design to determine that of the addition, the house went through significant changes. The residence became much more "finished" which in turn stirred up the angry voices of those who felt strongly about the original raw deconstructivist aesthetics. Nonetheless the Gehry House is still a classic among California's architectural works.
"I loved the idea of leaving the house intact... I came up with the idea of building the new house around it. We were told there were ghosts in the house... I decided they were ghosts of Cubism. The windows... I wanted to make them look like they were crawling out of this thing. At night, because this glass is tipped it mirrors the light in... So when you're sitting at this table you see all these cars going by, you see the moon in the wrong place... the moon is over there but it reflects here... and you think it's up there and you don't know where the hell you are..." - Frank Gehry