The Walt Disney Concert Hall at 111 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, California, is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center and was designed by Frank Gehry. As the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The hall is a compromise between a vinyard-style seating configuration, like the Berliner Philharmonie by Hans Scharoun, and a classical shoebox design like the Vienna Musikverein or the Boston Symphony Hall.
Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall stands out as a truly unique architectural vision, demonstrating that something new and completely different is possible. Walt Disney Concert Hall looks like a gleaming clipper ship sails filled with wind, The stainless steel exterior forms, which were in fact inspired by Gehry’s love of sailing.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is the curving stainless-steel skin of the building’s exterior. Resembling silver sails, the curves echo the billows in the auditorium and play off the bowed cornice of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, forging a link between new and old. In architect Frank Gehry’s original design, Walt Disney Concert Hall was intended to be clad in stone. Well known for his titanium building in Bilbao, he was urged to change the stone to metal. With this new material, Gehry was able to tweak the shape of the exterior, creating the iconic silver sails we see today.
Compared with the bold exterior, the concert hall itself is just that: a highly functional box, wrapped in his now-trademark sail-like forms. Gehry designed the auditorium to provide both impeccable acoustics and a sense of intimacy, wrapping the audience around the orchestra.
Gehry’s team visualized the lobby as a transparent, light-filled “living room for the city,” opening onto the sidewalk. In contrast to the tightly enclosed foyer of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the lobby would have a separate identity and serve as a symbolic bridge between everyday life and the inner sanctum. Walt Disney Concert Hall was intended to be a center of civic activity, not just a destination for concertgoers.
Inside the warm, Douglas fir-lined interior are 2,265 seats that are steeply raked and surround the stage. Ernest Fleischmann, former Executive Director of the LA Phil, felt that balconies and boxes reinforced a social hierarchy and proscenium arches separated players from listeners, and he urged that they be eliminated. In Walt Disney Concert Hall, the orchestra plays in the space in which the audience sits. The vineyard-style seating brings the audience close to the orchestra, and offers an intimate view of the musicians and conductor from any seat.
Lillian Disney made an initial gift of $50 million in 1987 to build a performance venue as a gift to the people of Los Angeles and a tribute to Walt Disney’s devotion to the arts and to the city. Both Gehry’s architecture and the acoustics of the concert hall, designed by Minoru Nagata, the final completion supervised by Nagata’s assistant and protege Yasuhisa Toyota. It opened on October 24, 2003. Bounded by Hope Street, Grand Avenue, and 1st and 2nd Streets, it seats 2,265 people and serves.
Over 70 international artists submitted their projects to the architectural competition, which was won by the legendary work of Frank Gehry, who proposed an experimental metallic design for the building’s exterior and a shoebox design for the interior, mirroring that of the Boston Symphony Hall.
Frank Owen Gehry is a Canadian-born American architect and designer. A number of his buildings, including his private residence in Santa Monica, California, have become world-renowned attractions. His works are considered among the most important of contemporary architecture in the 2010 World Architecture Survey, leading Vanity Fair to call him “the most important architect of our age”. He is also the designer of the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.
Frank Gehry, whose imagination has so much in common with Walt Disney’s. Gehry’s work offers a sense of wonder and delight with serious undertones, similar to Disney’s movies. He has an intuitive ability to understand what people want, with an immediacy that connects to all types of people.
Said to “defy categorisation”, Gehry’s work reflects a spirit of experimentation coupled with a respect for the demands of professional practice, and has remained largely unaligned with broader stylistic tendencies or movements. With his earliest educational influences rooted in modernism, Gehry’s work has sought to escape modernist stylistic tropes while remaining interested in some of its underlying transformative agendas. Continually working between given circumstances and unanticipated materializations, he has been assessed as someone who “made us produce buildings that are fun, sculpturally exciting, good experiences”, although his approach may become “less relevant as pressure mounts to do more with less”.
Gehry’s style at times seems unfinished or even crude, but his work is consistent with the California “funk” art movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, which featured the use of inexpensive found objects and nontraditional media such as clay to make serious art. His works always have at least some element of deconstructivism; he has been called “the apostle of chain-link fencing and corrugated metal siding”. However, a retrospective exhibit at New York’s Whitney Museum in 1988 revealed that he is also a sophisticated classical artist who knows European art history and contemporary sculpture and painting.
Frank Gehry’s competition-winning project proposal for Walt Disney Concert Hall marked just the beginning of the design process. Now, with the architect named, the client group could begin to address the complex set of issues involved in the venue’s planning and implementation. Among the key concerns were acoustics, use of the overall site, urban planning beyond the immediate site, and the contractual agreements among the entities involved.
The design of the hall and its acoustics evolved together, as Gehry designed the hall from the inside out. Dr. Minoru Nagata was selected as the acoustician because of the bright and clear – yet warm – sound of Tokyo’s acclaimed Suntory Hall. He and his assistant, Yasuhisa Toyota (who became chief acoustician of Walt Disney Concert Hall upon Nagata’s retirement in 1994), worked with Gehry by fax machine and traveled to Los Angeles monthly.
The project was initiated in 1987, when Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, donated $50 million. Frank Gehry delivered completed designs in 1991. Construction of the underground parking garage began in 1992 and was completed in 1996. The garage cost had been $110 million, and was paid for by Los Angeles County, which sold bonds to provide the garage under the site of the planned hall.
Construction of the concert hall itself stalled from 1994 to 1996 due to lack of fundraising. Additional funds were required since the construction cost of the final project far exceeded the original budget. Plans were revised, and in a cost-saving move the originally designed stone exterior was replaced with a less costly stainless steel skin.
Upon completion in 2003, the project cost an estimated $274 million. When Walt Disney Concert Hall finally opened in October 2003, this architectural masterpiece and acoustical marvel forever changed the musical landscape of Los Angeles. Extends beyond the people and the particulars of its creation to the future life of the building itself. Walt Disney Concert Hall has engaged audiences with the greatest ideas in music and architecture.
As construction finished in the spring of 2003, the Philharmonic postponed its grand opening until the fall and used the summer to let the orchestra and Master Chorale adjust to the new hall. Performers and critics agreed that it was well worth this extra time taken by the time the hall opened to the public. During the summer rehearsals a few hundred VIPs were invited to sit in including donors, board members and journalists. Writing about these rehearsals, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed wrote the following account:
When the orchestra finally got its next [practice] in Disney, it was to rehearse Ravel’s lusciously orchestrated ballet, Daphnis and Chloé…. This time, the hall miraculously came to life. Earlier, the orchestra’s sound, wonderful as it was, had felt confined to the stage. Now a new sonic dimension had been added, and every square inch of air in Disney vibrated merrily. Toyota says that he had never experienced such an acoustical difference between a first and second rehearsal in any of the halls he designed in his native Japan. Salonen could hardly believe his ears. To his amazement, he discovered that there were wrong notes in the printed parts of the Ravel that sit on the players’ stands. The orchestra has owned these scores for decades, but in the Chandler no conductor had ever heard the inner details well enough to notice the errors.
The hall met with laudatory approval from nearly all of its listeners, including its performers. In an interview with PBS, Esa-Pekka Salonen, former Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said, “The sound, of course, was my greatest concern, but now I am totally happy, and so is the orchestra,” and later said, “Everyone can now hear what the L.A. Phil is supposed to sound like.” This remains one of the most successful grand openings of a concert hall in American history.
The walls and ceiling of the hall are finished with Douglas-fir while the floor is finished with oak. Columbia Showcase & Cabinet Co. Inc., based in Sun Valley, CA, produced all of the ceiling panels, wall panels and architectural woodwork for the main auditorium and lobbies. The Hall’s reverberation time is approximately 2.2 seconds unoccupied and 2.0 seconds occupied.
The design of the hall included a large concert organ, completed in 2004, which was used in a special concert for the July 2004 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists. The organ had its public debut in a non-subscription recital performed by Frederick Swann on September 30, 2004, and its first public performance with the Philharmonic two days later in a concert featuring Todd Wilson.
The organ’s façade was designed by architect Frank Gehry in consultation with organ consultant and tonal designer Manuel Rosales. Gehry wanted a distinctive, unique design for the organ. He would submit design concepts to Rosales, who would then provide feedback. Gehry’s initial designs included pipes hanging from the ceiling and the organist in a cage halfway up the wall. Rosales found the concepts fanciful and marvelous, but he knew there was no way they would lead to the construction of a practical musical instrument. Eventually, Gehry presented a concept that looked like a cluster of flowers shooting out of the ground. Rosales loved it and agreed they could pursue the new design. What we see today is the dramatically splayed composition of beams that Gehry refers to as “French fries.”
The organ was built by the German organ builder Caspar Glatter-Götz under the tonal direction and voicing of Manuel Rosales. It has an attached console built into the base of the instrument from which the pipes of the Positive, Great, and Swell manuals (keyboards) are playable by direct mechanical, or “tracker” key action, with the rest playing by electric key action; this console somewhat resembles North-German Baroque organs, and has a closed-circuit television monitor set into the music desk. It is also equipped with a detached, movable console, which can be moved about as easily as a grand piano, and plugged in at any of four positions on the stage, this console has terraced, curved “amphitheatre”-style stop-jambs resembling those of French Romantic organs, and is built with a low profile, with the music desk entirely above the top of the console, for the sake of clear sight lines to the conductor. From the detached console, all ranks play by electric key and stop action.
In all, there are 72 stops, 109 ranks, and 6,125 pipes; pipes range in size from a few inches/centimeters to the longest being 32 feet (9.75m) (which has a frequency of 16 hertz).
In popular culture
The Hall was spoofed in The Simpsons episode “The Seven-Beer Snitch”; Gehry voiced himself in the episode where the town of Springfield had him design a new Concert Hall for the town. The Concert Hall was then transformed into a jail by Mr. Burns. The character Snake eventually escapes from the prison while saying, “No Frank Gehry-designed prison can hold me!”
The first ever movie premiere at the concert hall was in 2003, when The Matrix Revolutions held its world premiere.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall was briefly featured in the opening of the 2004 crime thriller Collateral. It is seen where the film’s main protagonist, Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx), is carrying a bickering couple (Debi Mazar and Bodhi Elfman) in his cab.
The Hall is featured in the video game Midnight Club: Los Angeles.
In the opening moments of “Day 6” of 24, a suicide bomber destroyed a bus in the vicinity of the Concert Hall.
The 2007 film Fracture has a scene at the concert hall.
The Concert Hall held Ellen DeGeneres co-hosting for American Idol during the special week of Idol Gives Back. Rascal Flatts, Kelly Clarkson, and Il Divo performed here.
This building was also used in the Iron Man (2008 release) movie briefly for a party for Stark Industries.
The finale of the 2008 movie Get Smart was filmed at the Concert Hall.
In the promotion picture for the television series Shark, the cast is standing in front of the Concert Hall.
In the original pilot of the American TV remake of Life on Mars, the Hall features prominently in the sequence where Sam travels back to 1972. It is an emblem of the ultra-modern landscape that Sam is about to leave behind.
On Everyday Italian, Giada De Laurentiis was preparing foods for her family and friends before she went there.
“One Hour”, a 3rd-season episode of NUMB3RS, extensively features the concert hall. The action begins outside the hall, and after a long series of events around town, the FBI winds up going inside the hall in order to rescue a young boy from his captors.
Both the interior and the exterior of the building were filmed in extensively during the production of the 2009 film, The Soloist.
Filming was done on location at the Concert Hall for a fictional Boomkat music video in the CW’s Melrose Place.
The ABC show Brothers and Sisters often shows an exterior shot of Senator Robert McCallister’s office that includes the concert hall. Also, Kitty proposed to Robert at a fundraiser held at the hall.
It was featured in the 2007 film, Alvin and the Chipmunks.
It was featured in the History Channel show Life After People, where its stainless steel protects it from a raging wildfire.
The exterior is featured prominently in the 2012 film Celeste and Jesse Forever.
In the fifth episode of the French reality show Amazing Race, the show’s contestants had to identify the Disney song a saxophonist was playing outside the concert hall.
It was also the place of shooting for various scenes from Glee’s latest seasons as part of the fictional academy NYADA (New York Academy of Dramatic Arts).
The Concert Hall’s 2014–15 Opening Night Concert, a tribute to American composer John Williams, was recorded on September 24, 2014 for the television special A John Williams Celebration Gala.
It was featured in the 2015 film Furious 7 during a chase.
On the children’s series SpongeBob SquarePants, the Bikini Bottom Concert Hall featured in the season 10 episode “Snooze You Lose” is modeled closely after the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The sixth episode of Top Chef: All-Stars L.A. featured the concert hall with contestants tasked with preparing dishes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Redefining what an orchestra can be, the LA Phil is as vibrant as Los Angeles, one of the world’s most open and dynamic cities. Led by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, this internationally renowned orchestra harnesses the transformative power of live music to build community, foster intellectual and artistic growth, and nurture the creative spirit.