Frank Gehry reveals his inspiration for the Weisman

This weekend the Weisman Art Museum celebrated the opening of its newly renovated building, and architect Frank Gehry was in attendance.


Weisman Art Museum

MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Gehry designed both the original museum and the expansion, a rare occurrence in the architecture world.

MPR’s Euan Kerr spoke with Gehry, who explained his original inspiration for the Weisman design:

Some observers claim the building’s famed asymmetrical facade was inspired by reflection on the waters of the Mississippi River below it. But Gehry said his inspiration came from elsewhere.

“The first inspiration came from the Tibetan monasteries that are on hills, where the big frontal elevation is off the side of a cliff,” he said. “That was really the building type that came to mind when I looked at that facade on the river.”

Gehry said he originally had intended for a duller finish on the exterior of the building, but then he visited the site with his son on his way to a hockey camp.

“There were samples of the shiny metal and the duller metal, and he said, ‘Which one are you going to use?'” Gehry recalled. “And I said, ‘I’d like to use the shiny one but it might be too much in their face.’ And he said ‘Poppa, you gotta do it!'”

The Weisman was the first museum Gehry designed in its entirety, and was the testing ground for ideas he used later in the better known Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

There you have it.