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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: A Peek Into The Getty's Newly Acquired Frank Gehry Archive

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The career-spanning archive of the world's most famous living architect is headed to the Getty Research Institute. In a press release sent out Wednesday, the Getty announced the acquisition of The Frank Gehry Papers, which encompass more than 30 years of the architect's career and some of his most famous projects.

The 88-year-old Pritzker Prize-winning architect's vast archive contains more than 1,000 sketches and models, along with hundreds of thousands of drawings, slides and ephemera. It spans more than three decades of his career, from his early years in graduate school through his winning competition entry for Walt Disney Concert Hall in 1988.


President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to architect Frank Gehry in 2016. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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"It's really conceived as the archive of his architectural practice, with all the components of the years between 1954 and 1988, with some extensions," Getty Senior Curator of Architectural Collections Maristella Casciato told LAist. The Getty will receive all materials relating to the construction of Disney Hall, from the original entry through its 2003 inauguration. Part of the draw of the archive is the unique insight it will provide into Gehry's practice as an architect. It will contain all of what Casciato describes as "the moving parts," from office records to documentation of how a project gets built.

Casciato also said that she was "very excited" about the 280 models in the archive, which are "the only way to understand his practice." Sketches that belong to different phases of individual designs will also be extremely relevant to understanding Gehry's process.

For Gehry, "the model is way of not only approaching and designing, but also the way he shares the project with his team," Casciato explained. Many of the models in the archive are process models, which show specific details or portions of a building during the design evolution.

Casciato said that the process of acquiring the material had been in the works for at least three years, and had included many discussions with Gehry about "how he looks at his own material, and his legacy."

"Because of the fact that he's still practicing and he's in Los Angeles, we want to involve him in some of the cataloguing process," Casciato said. Although the entire archive won't be shown to the public (it will be available to scholars), the Getty does plan to pick out key projects and materials for exhibitions, with Gehry's input. Casciato said she sees the cataloguing "as part of a much larger, almost didactic process, where the cataloguers, the scholars, the public will learn through the project."

The legendary Los Angeles architect's archive belongs in Los Angeles for a number of reasons, according to Casciato. "His early years were deeply grounded in the L.A. intellectual landscape," she explained. "He worked with many artists, and he built houses for artists in Los Angeles. He's really the first high ground of a vibrant L.A. in the '60s and '70s, which is very much embodied in this project and the archive."

The Getty Research Institute's architecture and design collection already has deep holdings in Southern California architecture, including the archives of Ray Kappe, Pierre Koenig and John Lautner, and the photographic collection of Julius Shulman. Adding The Frank Gehry Papers will be another component of "making the specific relevance of Los Angeles architecture global," Casciato said.