Known all over the world for his buildings, many of which have attained iconic status, Frank Gehry has revolutionised architecture’s aesthetics, its social and cultural role, and its relationship to the city.

Honoring Gehry’s extraordinary achievements Centre Pompidou Paris is now stageing the first major European retrospective offering a global survey of his work and following up on an earlier presentation of Frank Gehry’s work at the Centre Pompidou in 1992.. The exhibition describes the development of his formal and architectural language through the different periods into which his career may be divided, from the 1960s to the present. This is done through some 60 major projects, among them the Vitra Design Museum in Germany (1989), the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (1997), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (2003) and the Beekman Tower in New York (2011). No other exhibition has ever assembled so many projects – including 225 drawings.

It was in Los Angeles, in the early 1960s, that Gehry opened his own office as an architect. There he engaged with the California art scene, becoming friends with artists such as Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Claes Oldenburg, Larry Bell, and Ron Davis. His encounter with the works of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns would open the way to a transformation of his practice as an architect, for which his own, now world-famous, house at Santa Monica would serve as a manifesto.

Frank Gehry’s work has since then been based on the interrogation of architecture’s means of expression, a process that has brought with it new methods of design and a new approach to materials, with for example the use of such “poor” materials as cardboard, sheet steel and industrial wire mesh. As postmodernisms triumphed, Gehry for his part escaped them. He explained himself in a now famous dialogue with director Sydney Pollack who made a biographical film about the architect in 2005 (Sketches of Frank Gehry – screened as part of the exhibition). “How do you make architecture human?” ; “How do you find a second wind after industrial collapse?”.

Such questions run through Gehry’s work, through both the architecture and the urban vision so intimately associated with it. He is indeed as much an urbanist as he is an architect, the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, offering one of the most spectacular demonstrations of this – an iconic example of architecture’s capacity to revive the surrounding economic fabric.

08 October – 26 January