Famed architect Frank Gehry visits East Palo Alto classroom

Famed architect Frank Gehry, center, looks over a tiny town yesterday that he built with fourth-graders at Costano Academy in East Palo Alto. Photo by Emily Mibach.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Legendary architect Frank Gehry visited a fourth-grade classroom in East Palo Alto yesterday (Tuesday, May 21) and helped the students build a miniature city that included two chicken restaurants and a pizzeria.

The students of Costano Academy, 2695 Fordham St., dubbed the city “Frank Town” in honor of their guest, who designed one of the Facebook buildings just down the street in Menlo Park.

The little city also had a library, hospital, school, hotel and two courthouses.

At the end of the visit, Gehry asked the students if they would want to be architects some day, and about five kids raised their hands. So Gehry, who turned 90 in February, said that students interested in architecture can come intern for him when they turn 16, which is about six years away for most of the fourth-graders.

“What if you’re not alive?” one of the students asked. He was quickly told to be polite by some of the adults in the room.

The Los Angeles-based architect, who is known for modernist buildings that look like sculptures, did not seem to react to the comment.

Gehry is the co-founder of Turnaround Arts: California, a nonprofit that funds art teachers and curriculum at schools that typically serve lower-income students. Facebook has funded the program at Costano for the past three years.

Gehry and other architects from his firm visited Costano yesterday to help the students envision what their ideal town would look like.

Architect Humberto Barraza worked with two girls, Jackie and Destiny, who originally just wanted to build a house, because one of the girls does not have one.

About 23% of students in the district are homeless, according to a state department of education report. But Barraza and the girls ended up building a hotel with photography offices.

“We really wanted to build something tall,” Jackie said.

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