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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Here’s what Frank Gehry had to say
about LA

“The High Line is a rusty rail bridge and they put some plants on it.”
By Natalie Hoberman | October 26, 2017 02:00PM

The Los Angeles River and architect Frank Gehry with Walt Disney Concert Hall and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (Credit: Getty Images)

Los Angeles may be known for Grammy-winning musicians and red-carpet actors, but there is one individual who has risen to that level of fame without ever gracing the big screen.

Frank Gehry, a world-renowned architect who calls Southern California home, spoke to an attentive audience on Tuesday evening as real estate professionals and city planners gathered at the Convention Center for Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting, co-chaired by developer Wayne Ratkovich.

The outspoken, unfazed architect responsible for the unique Walt Disney Concert Hall; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; and countless other works refused to hold back in his conversation with radio host and producer Frances Anderton of KCRW. Here are some of the thoughts the 88-year-old designer shared:

“Los Angeles used to look different, but now it looks like every other city in the world,” Gehry said when asked what he thinks of all the new development. When prompted on specific developments he might be referring to, Gehry playfully responded with, “But I didn’t come here to rag on people.”

Gehry, whose work often breaks boundaries with out-of-the-box designs, had much to say about the state of architecture today and the role of architects themselves. “Architecture suffers from being overprotected,” he said. “As an architect, you’re infantilized.”

Gehry made the argument that architects should be working alongside developers to enhance the cost and efficiency of a project – rather than merely providing plans.

“We need to get into the fray and work with partners,” Gehry said. “We need to take more responsibility and become partners [with developers].”

Gehry said he even flirted with the idea of developing himself, noting, “When I started out, I thought ‘why not be the developer?”

When asked about how to solve the current housing crisis, he admitted to not having answers. “I’m ready to do it, but I don’t know where or how,” he said.

And that’s a theme that has reverberated through his four years on the 51-mile L.A. River redevelopment project, an endeavor that architect Mia Lehrer paved the way for, which took up a large portion of the conversation.

Anderton compared the river to New York City’s famous Highline, asking Gehry if there’s a potential the river will be a similar tourist attraction in L.A.. Without hesitation, Gehry quipped “The High Line is a rusty rail bridge and they put some plants on it.”

The public figure didn’t shy away from taking shots at ULI’s pay rate, quipping, “Half my time is [spent] being philanthropic – like today.”