Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Frank Gehry's Process

Architectural sketch for Transformation AGO

Architectural sketch for Transformation AGO, © Gehry International, Architects, Inc

Gehry International Architects' design process is based on extensive physical modelling at multiple scales, in which both the functional and formal aspects of a project are explored in detail. Rather than designing on a two-dimensional plane and extruding the model as a finished project, modelling at various scales throughout the design process keeps the architects focused on the building, so that the model is not an end in itself, but a representation.

Working from the ‘inside out,’ Gehry begins the design process with the building program, which is a list of the functional requirements of a building. He and his team use block models to form massing models, multiple configurations that establish relationships between a building's functions – such as gallery, lobby, hosting and conservation areas. Detailed context models are also completed at this stage to ensure that the building massing is respectful to the neighbourhood it inhabits. Once program needs are met from a massing perspective, the architectural and sculptural phase begins.

The catalyst for this highly exploratory and experimental phase is an idea or sketch that forms the basis for many small-scale gestural models created. These gestural models serve to establish working concepts, and are often constructed of ephemeral materials. The critical moment comes when these gestural models are merged with the functional model.

Working with and respecting the history of existing structures in the AGO renovation and expansion presents interesting opportunities. The outcome is a building where the integration of old and new is its feature design strength.

Share and Enjoy: