This is the official webpage for Los Angeles-based journalist and author Barbara Isenberg. Her most recent book is the Los Angeles Times best-seller Conversations with Frank Gehry, published by Knopf in 2009, and which reflects her interviews with the celebrated architect over the past 20 years. A long-time contributor to the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine, she is also the author of Making It Big: The Diary of a Broadway Musical, and of State of the Arts: California Artists Talk About Their Work. She is also founder and host of the annual London-based British Theater Backstage with Barbara Isenberg. Read More
- Articles by Barbara Isenberg at Los Angeles Times
- Articles by Barbara Isenberg at Time Magazine
- Articles by Barbara Isenberg at The Huffington Post
Excerpt from Conversations with Frank Gehry
A few years ago, Frank Gehry was told he needed to have a brain scan, and he dutifully submitted to forty-five minutes in the cramped, claustrophobic confines of an M.R.I. diagnostic chamber. As machines thumped and hammered, he slipped into himself and his imagination.
Afterward, the doctors had their M.R.I., which showed nothing unusual. Architect Gehry, on the other hand, had the preliminary design for the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation, a unique, glass-encased museum destined for the Bois de Bologne in Paris. “I focused on it the whole time I was in the machine, thinking about it, fantasizing and designing it,” Gehry says. “I retreat into my own world a lot when I’m driving or in an airplane, too. My father used to call me a dreamer, which he didn’t mean as a compliment, and he was right. He just underestimated the power of dreaming.”
Few dreamers have so captured the public’s imagination as Frank Gehry, widely considered among the most important and influential architects of his time. He has won dozens of awards from the American Institute of Architects alone, the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize, the very first Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, his country’s National Medal of Arts and innumerable international honors. His Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, which led to that city’s economic rebirth, has been called “the world’s most celebrated new building” by The New York Times, while the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is similarly considered a visual--and acoustic-- masterpiece. Projects from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi are in design or development, under construction or preparing to open.
I've written about many of those endeavors, interviewing Gehry again and again for newspapers, magazines and books since the 1980s. A few years ago, he asked me if I would help him organize his memories through an oral history. I was immediately drawn to the idea, having enjoyed our many earlier interviews, and what began as an oral history soon evolved into the conversations I've edited here. Since December 2004, Gehry and I have met regularly at his Los Angeles office and Santa Monica home, over restaurant breakfasts and conference room lunches. We've talked about the family he was born into and the families he created, who he wanted to be and who he became, what architects do generally and what he does specifically, always coming back to the family, cultural and geographic forces that have shaped his aesthetic.