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Architect Frank Gehry Named Judge Widney Professor

Frank Gehry, who is among the world’s most prominent and innovative architects, has been named the Judge Widney Professor of Architecture by USC President C. L. Max Nikias.

“As one of USC’s most influential alumni and now a Judge Widney Professor, Frank Gehry represents the best of the Trojan Family,” Nikias said. “He has created some of the most breathtaking buildings around the world and transformed his field with his unique combination of expertise, imagination and innovation that have opened up a vast new frontier of architectural possibilities.”

Judge Robert Maclay Widney founded USC in 1880 and played an important role in the growth of Los Angeles as an urban center. The title that bears his name is reserved for eminent individuals from the arts, sciences, professions, business and community leadership. Gehry’s faculty appointment will be in the USC School of Architecture, from which he earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1954.

“I am very honored to be given this prestigious appointment,” Gehry said. “USC was an important part of my early life. When I was a USC student, my professors gave me excellent preparation for my career. I carry with me today many life lessons learned at ’SC.”

Winner of several of the field’s most significant awards, Gehry has designed distinctive museums, concert halls, offices, homes and other public and private buildings across the globe and throughout California. Among his most iconic works are the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Completed in 2004, many consider Disney Hall, with its whimsically curved stainless steel exterior, to be the city’s most important contemporary structure.

“Frank Gehry is arguably one of the most innovative designers in history, integrating design, art and community in such unique, pioneering ways,” said Qingyun Ma, dean of the USC School of Architecture. “He acts as an alchemist — every city touched by his architecture is touched by his creative power. I am proud of the fact that he is a USC Trojan, demonstrating global vision, technological innovation and social expression.”

Elizabeth Garrett, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, sees Gehry as an ideal fit with USC’s academic values.

“Frank Gehry’s career, which spans five decades, is a model of the type of interdisciplinary work we try to foster among our faculty and students,” she said. “He brings together design, technology and culture to create spaces that both reflect and shape the missions and communities they serve.”

Gehry was raised in Toronto, Canada, and moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1947. In addition to attending USC, he studied city planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and served in the U.S. Army. Already an award-winning architect with his own firm, Gehry became widely known for his cutting-edge design in 1978 after enclosing the first floor of his Santa Monica home in corrugated metal and chain-link fencing. A hallmark of his career has been his use and development of computer-aided design to create unusual architectural shapes.

Gehry has several projects currently in the design or construction phase, including the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi, the Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum in Paris and Beekman Residential Tower in New York City, which will be his first high-rise building to be completed. His numerous awards include the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture, the Pritzker Prize and the National Medal of Arts. He also has received many honorary degrees, including one from USC.

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