When Frank O. Gehry met with co-founders Paul Allen and Jody Patton, he was introduced to their drive and passion to share the creative inspiration of music with others. To design the building, Gehry looked to music for his inspiration. A classical music fan, Gehry wanted to understand rock 'n' roll so he traded in his Bach for Hendrix and took a trip to the neighborhood guitar store. Gehry bought several electric guitars, took them back to his office and cut them into pieces. The guitar pieces were the building blocks for an early model design. Influenced by the colors in the early model, Gehry's final design brightly displays the red and blue hues of electric guitars.
The outside of the building is as stimulating as what is on the inside. A fusion of textures and myriad of colors, the museum structure symbolizes the energy and fluidity of music. The exterior consists of stainless steel and painted aluminum shingles, each individually cut and shaped. The stainless steel has three finishes: mirrored purple, lightly brushed silver, and bead-blasted gold. The red and blue sections are painted aluminum. Each finish takes on an exciting and unique shade when viewed from different angles around the building. The red will fade with time, altering the appearance of the building's exterior and reflecting how music is ever changing. There are over 3,000 panels covering the exterior skin of EMP|SFM, each panel holding about seven shingles. Each shingle is a unique shape and size, cut and bent to fit exactly in its designed location. A total of 21,000 shingles cover the EMP|SFM exterior.
Building Fun Fact
If you made a typical steel guitar "E" (first) string from the steel in EMP|SFM, it would be 1.6 million miles long — enought to circle the Earth 65 times. If you made it into the lightest banjo string, you could stretch it 1/4 of the way to the planet Venus. Twang!
The data cable installed in the building could wrap around the earth!