Senior Citizen, Architect

frankgehryaarpFacebook was bootstrapped as a technology startup that got its roots in a Harvard dorm room catering to millennials. Ever since, they have been trying to portray an image of “hip” by catering to a younger crowd; thus, that is why I think less of Facebook after following the status quo and choosing an octogenarian architect to design their Headquarters. 

Most people only know a handful of famous architects. But everybody knows Frank Gehry. Even Mark Zuckerberg’s Grandma knows of Frank Gehry. However, Frank Gehry is 86 years old.|1| Do you know how old Mark Zuckerberg’s Grandma is? 84.|2|

I’m just worried Mark Zuckerberg, actually, has no original opinions. He would’ve arrived at the same decision if he’d polled the members of Farmville.  

However, I’m not actually trying to demean Frank Gehry in any way. He was still producing a lot of innovative work until the over-ripe old age of 84, then last year he seemingly finally hit his “old man curmudgeon” phase after flippantly flipping the bird to reporters, but now, the oldest living architect|3| in the United States has caught his second|4| wind and remains sprightly again at age 86 – enthusiastically redefining architecture through his L.A. River endeavors.

Furthermore, I wouldn’t think conversations with Mark Zuckerberg’s Grandma would involve much more than pumpernickel cookie recipes. Even though Frank Gehry won the Pritzker prize before Mark Zuckerberg could even spell his last name, conversations with Frank had to involve detailed discussions about waterproofing concerns and advanced coordination with structural systems to incorporate an external glass curtain wall system.

What’s even more astonishing, is the fact that the photos of Facebook Headquarters look amazing – and show no semblance of the sinuous Frank Gehry style.  


I actually think Frank Gehry’s representatives might have to file an elder-abuse claim against Facebook, because I can imagine Mark condescendingly telling Gehry, “Now now Franklin, it’s getting late. Why don’t we get you to bed. Would you like a warm glass of milk? And also, we are not doing any of your prototypical curvy forms, the interiors will be raw concrete and steel, and there will be an open floor plan with noisy spaces. Here’s your milk Franklin, sleep tight.”

Recently, technology companies have been attempting to define their image not only through their products, but also through their architecture.|5| For their respective Headquarters – Apple and Google seemingly chose an architect that epitomized their individual personalities. Apple has an established, refined style, and chose an established refined architect – Norman Foster. Google has an eccentric, almost naive style; therefore, they chose the Danish architect who uses too much hair spray for their Googleplex.  

In contradiction, Facebook (seemingly) deceived their true identity by failing to hire a “younger”, slightly off the radar architect. But who should this “younger” architect have been? – The aforementioned Danish Fraternity Boy? A 46 year-old Joshua Prince-Ramus? Sadly, until Prince-Ramus gets confused with Reince Preibus,|6| good architects will continue to stay out of the public realm, and this is the shame that Facebook failed to capture.

Facebook was built for college people to connect, and you HAD to have a valid college email address to even sign-up for Facebook. Unlike creepy MySpace with all the voyeuristic pedophiles creeping on your unique page with your splashy background, Facebook was exclusive to you and your fraternity polo-shirted peers. There became a community where any college acquaintance could become friends with you; I imagine that Facebook helped more people date than any other online dating site. Facebook was only available to college students, and this went hand in hand with the college drinking scene. Camera phones and small compact cameras became mainstream and made it easy to share party pics with all your Facebook friends.  

Then one day, I had a Facebook “friend request” from a person whose last name was identical to my mother’s maiden name. I couldn’t recall anyone with her first name, and there was no profile image – but I had assumed it must’ve been a distant cousin that I couldn’t recall. So I clicked on the profile and looked at the birth date. It said 1944. And that was the day that my Grandma wanted to become internet friends with me. This was also the day that I quit Facebook.|7|

Facebook still believes they are the platform of millennials, however, they haven’t realized they now cater to Bridge-playing AARP members.

Facebook has become THE platform for the aging public to connect with old friends. It is also a convenient way for stay at home mothers to show their relatives, my Grandma, and their uncaring acquaintances – thousands of pictures of their little toddler eating cake for the first time. What once used to be Facebook videos of Brady barely being able to walk after a football game, has devolved into Facebook videos of toddlers barely being able to walk for the first time.

Young people don’t want to be friends on Facebook with their friends’ mothers or my Grandma. Facebook once was an expressive way to grow into oneself away from prying eyes, but now it is just another tool for parents and adults to monitor the youth – and how to find Target coupons.

As Facebook now attempts to betray its roots – it has become the de facto site for my Grandma and all Grandma’s. Perhaps, this mastermind in a hoody fooled us all, as Mark Zuckerberg evolved beyond penny-pinching college students, and opened up to a broader market of capitalization.

Ultimately, after all this ranting – and upon further reflection – a Senior Citizen was, in fact, the ideal architect for Facebook Headquarters. Bravo Frank! Now go take your nap.




Click the purple numerals to transport between hyperlinks

1 Just because an architect is old and experienced people think they must be good. But being old and experienced is often over-rated, like how people think NFL referee Ed Hocholi must be good, just since he has been around and in charge – but he makes more discrepant calls than any other referee. But because of his status, they get overlooked.
2 I do not actually know how old Mark Zuckerberg’s Grandma is.
3 I made this fact up, but he might be the oldest living architect – now that Ed Crittenden has passed away.
4 Or probably 22nd
5 The construction variety, not the IT variety.
6 It’s almost an election year again, so perhaps some people get my obscure references.
7 And I hope my Grandma doesn’t read my blog, but if you do, don’t blame yourself – I was only protecting you from countless drunken pictures.

This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which the multi-faceted architect Bob Borson, of Life of an Architect, selects a theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. This month’s theme is Citizen Architect. Whereas, most people probably googled Samuel Mockbee for this month’s topic – I missed the memo and googled “At what age do I qualify for discounts at Perkin’s.” (And if you also were curious, it’s 55.)

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Citizen Architect … Seems Redundant

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Citizen Architect

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Good Citizen Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
small town citizen architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: The everyday citizen architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Citizen Architect: #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Architect as Citizen

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
My Hero – Citizen Architect

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
We are the Champions – Citizen Architects

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks #13: How Can I Be But Just What I Am?

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Help with South Carolina’s Recovery Efforts

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Citizen Architect

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Citizen Starchitect’ is not an Oxymoron

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Citizen Architect – Form out of Time

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[cake decorating] to [citizen architect]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Citizen Architect #ArchiTalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Citizen of Architecture

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Protecting the Client – 3 Ways to be a Citizen Architect

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Citizen Developer??

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Citizen Architect

Courtney Casburn Brett – Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
“Citizen Architect” + Four Other Practice Models Changing Architecture

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Architects Can Be Model Citizens

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Citizen Architect: The Last Responder

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Inspiring a Citizen Architect


  1. Rich

    I guess it is in the name of creative license that you proclaimed Heatherwick and Ingles Dutch?

    • brady ernst

      Thanks Rich. I apparently am not a European country savant – I was only referring to Bjarke, but I can’t tell you the difference between Dutch and Danish.
      However, I apologize to the Netherlands, and will remove Bjarke from your country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *