Frank Gehry, product designer

Frank Gehry is most widely known as an architect. However it is his product design over a generation that is to be celebrated at a new event and exhibition.

At the Museum of California Design’s 12th annual awards benefit next month they are to celebrate Gehry’s 40 years in product design. He is to be awarded the Museum’s Henry Award for “outstanding contributions to American design”. It will also include the installation, “Franky Gehry: Forty Years of Product Design 1972 – 2012” in a first ever survey exhibition of his designed furniture, lighting, jewellery and different objects.

Gehry’s architecture is almost instantly recognisable with its curvy modern approach. His product design shows the same flair. He has designed many furniture products, each inspired by an environmentally friendly ethos and affordable moniker. His “Easy Edges” series is made from layers of corrupted cardboard which is then laminated and supported with metal rods. It was designed to be affordable but Gehry pulled it from production when, some have said, it became too popular.

Ten years later he created “Experimental Edges” made from the same material but more ideally suited to a gallery environment.

In the ensuing decades he has made chairs for Knoll, and has used a wide range of materials from cardboard to wood, plastic, iron and wicker.

His furniture design is like a signature. Whether solid blocks or the wooden layers that curve and fit around the body, each product is highly individual, even if it is mass produced. Imagine it in your home, would it match anything else, would it look like an artwork alongside your other products? Even a simple chair looks like it would fit in a De Stijl exhibition as much as a living room. And for those with the budget, $1,819 USD for a chair isn’t a huge amount more than you’d pay for an eye-catching central focus piece of furniture, and it’s a Frank Gehry!

This is where product design nestles in that space between art and function. Architects are often best known for being in this space, think of Louis Kahn or Le Corbusier, but product design sits here as well. The De Stijl movement, with artists like Mondrian inspired by it, can just as easily be seen in a living space as it can a gallery. We often forget that the every day products we sit on or carry around should be as beautiful and desired as those we see in galleries. Just as we should enthuse over those that create them as much as we do artists and architects.

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