Dezeen Magazine

SCI-Arc Frank Gehry graduation

SCI-Arc awards Frank Gehry honorary masters degree in architecture

Los Angeles university SCI-Arc has granted Frank Gehry an honorary masters degree in recognition of his "unparalleled" impact on architecture.

The 90-year-old architect was awarded the masters of architecture degree at a graduation ceremony held at SCI-Arc's campus in Los Angeles on 8 September.

After receiving his masters diploma, Gehry gave a speech reflecting on his career and relationship with SCI-Arc, where he is a faculty member and trustee.

SCI-Arc Frank Gehry graduation
Gehry was awarded the honorary degree during a graduation ceremony at SCI-Arc

"I started teaching at SCI-Arc way back, before all of you were born probably," Gehry said. "There were some rough times – they didn't know who I was or what I was."

"I didn't know who I was or what I was either," he continued. "But we got through it."

Gehry has honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale and Princeton

It joins several honorary degrees that Gehry has been awarded from universities around the world, including University of Oxford, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), University of Technology Sydney, and America's Ivy League schools Yale, Princeton and Harvard to name a few.

Frank Gehry was born Frank Owen Goldberg in Toronto, Canada in 1929, and studied architecture and planning the University of Southern California and Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD).

He set up his firm Gehry Partners in 1962 in Los Angeles, and continues to practice to this day. His current projects include the decade-long renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, new mixed-use complexes in Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and Abu Dhabi's forthcoming Guggenheim museum.

Gehry, who was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1989, is also celebrated for works including Los Angeles' Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Facebook's campus in Silicon Valley.

"There are very few figures in the history of architecture who can claim that there's a 'before' and 'after' their work," SCI-Arc director and CEO Hernan Diaz Alonso said, while presenting Gehry his degree at the ceremony. "Frank Gehry is one of them."

Gehry "in a league of his own"

"His impact in our world – the world of architecture and the world at large – is unparalleled," he added.

Gehry is also an avid supporter of arts education, through the initiative Turnaround Arts, and works to promote social responsibility within architecture. In 2017 he taught a SCI-Arc class where students created design solutions for US prison reform.

He and with his wife, Berta, are also donors to the school and have established the Gehry Prize, which is awarded to notable graduate thesis projects every year.

"I really believe he represents what an architect should be; there's no architect in the past 50 years that's as important as Frank Gehry," Alonso said.

"He's innovated on every front that an architect can innovate," he continued. "There are not enough words or concepts to define what Frank Gehry means for architecture, for Los Angeles, for our students, for our faculty, and for the world at large. I cannot think of anybody better to deserve an honorary degree from SCI-Arc."

"300 years from now, he will be reflected upon as one of the two or three biggest figures in architecture in the latter half of the 21st-century," he continued.

"He is in a league of his own."