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Year 3 Visual Arts

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Taking a Different Line: A Modern Museum

Architects working today often strive to design buildings in new ways; not just re-working the best designs of the past but adding to them and even questioning them. The Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry [GAIR-ree], for example, rarely works with straight or continuous lines like the architects whose work we looked at in What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know who made the Parthenon, St Paul's Cathedral and the Great Stupa.

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Gehry seems to start his design thinking not about line, but about surfaces, materials and how light will play across them.

Have you ever been to a museum? They are among our favourite places to visit and, in Britain, many are free. Museums often contain beautiful and interesting works of art. When Gehry was asked to design a new museum, he decided to create a building that not only housed great art, but that was a work of art itself. His Guggenheim Museum for modern art is in Bilbao in Spain. It sits beside the Nervion River and many people think it looks like a giant version of one of the many cargo ships that pass nearby. Others, however, don't see it as a ship. The irregular surfaces and form of Gehry's building, combined with its glittering metal skin, can give the impression of shiny, splashing fish! It is said that Gehry's grandmother used to keep live fish in a bath before she prepared them for special meals. The young Gehry was fascinated by how the solid forms of the fish changed as the light played across their metallic scales.

What do you think of when you look at the Bilbao Guggenheim: a ship, a glinting fish or something else?


This activity is adapted from page 197 of What Your Year 3 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

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