Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How Time Flies! Disney Concert Hall Turns 10 Years Old

When the Walt Disney Concert Hall opened in 2003, Los Angeles was still fighting off two persistent, dismissive remarks from the world at large. One was that LA was a city without culture, that its only contribution to the world was the movie industry. And the other was that LA was a series of suburbs without any central city, that nobody goes downtown.  

In one fell swoop, the monumental success of architect Frank Gehry's crowning addition to downtown LA's Music Center set into motion a process that ended both of those bad raps on Los Angeles, once and for all.  Today, the LA Phil and its Disney home are lauded around the world, and downtown has even surpassed Hollywood as the booming, happening neighborhood that grows and blossoms before our eyes.  

The tenth anniversary of Disney Hall seems both a longer and shorter time away than it should.  The opening seems like yesterday, and yet the LA that existed before the completion of the iconic hall seems positively ancient.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "When Gehry was named one of the finalists in the competition to design a new building for the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1988, he was keenly aware of the typical objections to his work. In an early presentation of his proposal, he made a point of saying that his buildings 'aren't from Mars.' He emphasized how much his career was 'bound to this city.'

He was, in fact, the only local architect among the four finalists. His initial design, quite different from what was ultimately built, imagined a small village for classical music at the top of Bunker Hill.

At the center was a conservatory holding a lobby and topped with a sloping roof. The auditorium was pushed back toward 2nd and Hope streets and clad in limestone. A pedestrian bridge reached over 1st Street to Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. A glass dome crowned a single-story restaurant along Grand.

Even in this embryonic form it was easy to see the influence on Gehry of Hans Scharoun's 1963 Berlin Philharmonic. Scharoun produced for postwar West Germany a low-slung, open-hearted concert hall that was determined to look anti-monumental and avoid any comparison to the Nazi landmarks of the 1930s.

Gehry aimed to do something similar, but for cultural rather than political reasons. He wanted his design to protect the idea of the concert hall as refuge — but also to embody the essential informality of Los Angeles. He wanted to demystify and democratize classical music, a goal that happened to match those of the leaders of the L.A. Phil, first Ernest Fleischmann and later Deborah Borda.

Getting from design to finished building was a hugely complicated process even by the standards of civic architecture in Los Angeles. Work on the hall stalled by 1994, and the project nearly collapsed for lack of money. Once it was restarted in 1997 — the year Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, opened to heaps of praise — it quickly hit another crisis as Eli Broad and others moved to hire a second architecture firm to handle the working drawings for the complex design. Only when Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller made a final gift contingent on Gehry's full control of the design was the impasse broken.

Those fits and starts matched what was happening in the city at large. During the period from design to completion, 1988 to 2003, Los Angeles negotiated riots and a major recession, rediscovered its downtown and cycled through three mayors. Gehry kept reshaping the architecture of a major civic building for a city that seemed to be trying to reimagine, if not remake, itself."

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