Ask someone to name a living architect, and it’s a good bet the first name you’ll hear is Frank Gehry’s. The Canadian-born, California-based Pritzker Prize winner virtually created the idea of the celebrity globe-trotting architect, with his iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao single-handedly revitalizing the sleepy Spanish port city in 1997 and launching his career into the stratosphere — at the ripe young age of 68. “I’ve had a good run at being relevant, but I want to be more relevant!” he says. “I would like to do a big project in Outer Mongolia — I don’t care where.” Now 84, Gehry is still involved in every detail of his firm’s buildings, from undulating skyscrapers in Manhattan to twisted luxury residences in Hong Kong. Foreign Policy spoke with the starchitect on his plans for the future, his long-delayed first project in the Arab world, and the trouble with democracy.
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. One would hope there would be more support from within these places for architecture that responds to the place and culture. That’s what I’m trying to do, but, man, no one else seems to be involved with it. It’s just cheap copies of buildings that have already been built somewhere else.