Design Classic: Frank Gehry’s take on the game of chess

Curves and edges

In Frank Gehry’s world, it is a small landscape: a chunk of real estate approximately 40 square inches topped by 32 structures. But Gehry has always been fascinated by the game of chess, and when the architect turned his attention to redesigning the chessboard, he unleashed his creativity on the project.

It is tempting to look for architectural references in the bone-china game pieces – perhaps to his billowing Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, or to the rippling skyscraper at 8 Spruce Street in New York. But Gehry’s inspiration for this project for Tiffany & Co., was simply the roles of the pieces and the hierarchy of the game. “My queen has a beautiful crown and a soft body,” he says, “but she holds her own next to the king, who is more angular and sharp: He has more height, but she has the power. The bishop is all mitre, and the rook and knight are my take on a horse and castle.” The pawns are topped with a “cannon,” and Gehry likens the assembled tableau to a cityscape.

“What I love the most is watching a game in progress,” he says, “and watching the composition change.”

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