Frank Gehry and Doreen Gehry Nelson

We’ve only just returned from a super successful SxSWEDU show in Austin, Texas where we met 100’s of educators and organisations from all across the US and beyond. Each and everyone was eager to learn about how Arckit’s architectural building blocks and curriculum is offering an exciting alternative ‘hands-on & learn by doing’ approach to teaching in the classroom today.

A glimpse of our busy booth at SxSWEDU

These included Chicago & Baltimore Public School Districts, Boston College & Penn State universities, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, NAF, Al Jude, Edge and Geminus Foundations and many more. 

Visitors getting hands on with Arckit

This year, architecture was an overriding theme throughout the event with discussions and workshops on the importance of design in education taking place daily. We learned that many architectural practices are actively involved with school districts running workshops that introduce the next generation to the world of architecture, engineering and design. Firms including Architecture4Education in California & Oregon and Perkins Eastman, who have 28 offices globally, visited our booth and could see Arckit as a natural fit with their edu programmes.
I have to say, the highlight for me from the whole show however, was attending the siblings Frank Gehry and Doreen Gehry Nelson conference on Design Based Learning in education and getting to ask a question to one of the greatest architects of our time.
A memorable moment in conversation with Doreen Gehry Nelson.
For over 50 years, Doreen has been championing what we at Arckit are endeavouring to achieve today, which is creating student lead classrooms where self expression and 'teaching through the medium of architecture' are integral to this process of education. Doreen’s 'Design Based Learning' method uses the make up of 'the city' as a canvas to teach children a whole host of life skills by encouraging them to envision how they would like their towns and cities to be.
Showing the similarities between a DBL workshop and an Arckit workshop.
By appointing a mayor, city architect, engineer, planner, surveyor, lawyer, account etc, within the classroom, students not only design and physically build their city in miniature, they also learn what it takes to manage and run their community harmoniously through cooperation and understanding. This unique approach encourages, debate, collaboration, problem solving and solution finding while subconsciously helping to instil a confidence in children that can’t be taught merely with text books.
Frank Gehry participating in one of Doreen's DBL workshops.
Frank Gehry on Doreen’s teaching method, "I’ve seen the payoff in the kids that grow up that have had that experience. They’re not afraid to express themselves, they’re not afraid to be intuitive, they’re not afraid to be curious. That's the big thing, to be curious”.
At aged 94 and still practicing his mastery, Frank Gehry is a true icon and disruptor in the world of architecture. He reacted against the cold and often formulaic modernist buildings that dotted many cityscapes and instead began to experiment with unusual expressive devices while searching for a personal vocabulary. 
Frank Gehry House, Santa Monica, California
Frank Gehry House, Santa Monica, California (1977)
These experiments are perhaps best embodied by the renovations he made to his own home in Santa Monica, California in the 70's. He essentially stripped it down to its bare frame and then built a chain-link with corrugated-steel frame around it, complete with asymmetrical protrusions of steel rod and glass. Without doubt, it informed all of his works that were to follow.
Vitra Furniture Museum
Vitra Furniture Museum 1989
Treating each new commission as “a sculptural object, a spatial container, a space with light and air,” Gehry was rewarded with commissions the world over throughout the 1980s and ’90s including the Vitra Furniture Museum in Germany, the American Center in Paris and the Weisman Art Museum in Minnesota.
Weisman Art Museum
Weisman Art Museum 1993
Gehry’s reputation soared in the late 1990s. By that time his trademark style had become buildings that resemble undulating free-form sculpture which reached its zenith in his Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (1997). 
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao 1977
Since then, Gehry received numerous large scale commissions including Walt Disney Concert Hall, Chicago’s Millennium Park, Louis Vuitton Paris and many more which you can view here
Chicago Millenium Park 1998-2004
Although, critical opinion is sometimes divided over his radical structures, Gehry’s work has made architecture popular in a way not seen in the US since Frank Lloyd Wright. 
On a personal level, I found his humour to be warm and witty and with an imagination still full of wonderment and clarity. As siblings, I sensed a deep affection and love between Doreen and Frank Gehry that no doubt has been present ever since their childhood days growing up in Canada.