Frank O. GehryAmerican, born Canada (Toronto, Canada, 1929)
To promote the 1983 launch of its ColorCore product, the Formica Corporation invited architects to demonstrate the material's unique characteristics through their own designs. Having already decided to highlight ColorCore's integral coloring and translucence, Gehry accidentally broke a piece and discovered that it fragmented into rough, scalelike pieces of varying opacity and shading. When the shards were joined and lit from behind, they resembled a swelling, tapering fish's body. Gehry's dynamic layering of the shards causes light to leak out of the belly, animating the lamp and suggesting the play of light as it reflects off the scales of a moving fish.
The lamp is unlike Gehry's early architectural works, which were rectilinear, boxy, and gravitationally oriented; making use of an unconventional material freed him to discover a new methodology. In his deconstruction of the form of the fish, he discovered architectural principles that have become central to his practice: fluidity, buoyancy, and, perhaps most importantly, the freedom of form inherent in the division of skin and skeleton.