Robb Interview: Iconic Architect Frank Gehry

The legendary creator speaks on his sculptural collaboration with Hennessy.

By Robb Report 09/11/2020

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Hennessy X.O. the famed maison has worked together with world-renowned architect Frank Gehry on a limited-edition decanter.

Using his signature sculptural style to reinterpret the Hennessy’s timeless silhouette, Gehry has married gold and glass to point to the rich legacy of the French label ushering in a fitting new era for the traditions of the Extra Old Cognac.

The limited run of 150 numbered decanters will be further supplemented by a wider release of limited-edition Hennessy X.O. bottles – also marked by Frank Gehry’s design.

Gehry, 91, is an illustrious architect with a prolific career spanning six decades dotted with numerous lauded highlights including the Bilbao Guggenheim, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Art gallery of Ontario and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and has enjoyed a long relationship with the LVMH group.

Robb Report sat down with Gehry to talk through the motives that drove the collaboration with Hennessy and why cognac is to be celebrated and used for celebrating.

Robb Report: Hennessy has a certain legacy, what does the term legacy mean to you?

Frank Gehry: It means something’s been around for a long time and it has become part of people’s lives and their culture, and they’re proud of it. And so they talk about it and write about it and think about it. That’s what I think it [legacy] is about.

RR: And when designing a project like this – how do you find synergy between your personal flair and a brand like Hennessy?

FG: Well, I’ve had some involvement with Bernard Arnault and his team with the museum [Fondation Louis Vuitton] in Paris. And we’ve been interested in working on other products and they ask me “can you figure out how to make it nicer?”, or something. And I love doing that, I love the challenge. And it’s kind of an honour to be asked. I love France, I lived there for a year in 1959 and so it was easy.

RR: How would you define the roles of architects and their influence in today’s society?

FG: Architecture is a vast field and it has many different ways to practice it, in the old days architects were artists who were painters like Giotto and El Greco and Michelangelo. So, the building became part of the art and the art of architecture was part of the understanding of architecture.

But the role of architecture role started to diminish and become commercialised, commercial buildings and its role became marginalises as a work of art.

RR: But surely with the rise of ‘starchitects’ over the last 10-15 years there’s been a return to architecture as art?

FG: It [artistic architecture] was desired, but nobody wanted to pay for it. They thought that was too expensive. Just the word art attached to architecture in somebody’s impression doubled it. You could achieve beauty and with inexpensive materials, that’s been proven over and over again. So, the future is that the profession rises to its own past glories and become and stay in the art side of things.

RR: What drives your creativity? How do you then engage with new mediums like a decanter?

FG: Creativity is at first curiosity. Creative ideas come from being curious about the subject, asking questions and discovering along the way, not being afraid to try new things. When I design, I try new things, I make multiple designs and models until I land on the final product that feels just right.

RR: What was the inspiration for the decanter design?

FG: The decanter design was inspired by the distinctive elements of the birthplace of Hennessy X.O., which is the rich soil of the land and the Charente River upon which the Maison Hennessy sits.

RR: Why did you choose the materials that you did?

FG: For the decanter, using bronze to craft the shell allowed us to replicate the Charnete River’s surface texture, which we dipped in gold to create a finish that catches the light and mesmerises like water. We crafted the glorifier out of translucent glass … the glass creates the illusion of a splash of water surrounding the decanter. The finishing touch is the fusil, crafted out of both glass and gold, joining the decanter and glorifier as one.”

RR: And how do you enjoy your Hennessy X.O.?

FG:  Well, I’m not a heavy drinker at my age. I think when I was younger, I did, but, and I don’t really remember what I drank. It wasn’t expensive. I use the Hennessy cognac for celebration, family celebration. And so, the idea of having it in a bottle that’s sculptural that you can put on your tables. It’s in the middle of my table.


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