When you think of Walt Disney probably the last thing that comes to your mind is classical music. In October 2003 the Walt Disney Concert Hall opened its doors to critical acclaim as the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in downtown Los Angeles.
The complex was designed by architect Frank Gehry with the acoustics engineered by Yasuhisa Toyota. The project began in 1987 with a gift of $50 million from Lillian Disney (Walt’s widow) with the idea of building a world-class music venue to honor her husband. Sixteen years later, many millions of dollars more, and a change in design direction, the project was completed.
Even if your schedule does not permit you to take in a concert, Disney Hall is a great place just to visit. Self-guided audio tours are free for adults, seniors, students, and groups. Private Group guided tours are $15 per person for parties of 15 or more. (although visitors are not allowed in the main auditorium itself due to ongoing rehearsals). Or you can find your own way around.
Be prepared to climb a lot of stairs. Stairways snake around the exterior of the complex like a giant jungle gym, affording great views of the surrounding neighborhood and better yet, a look at the infrastructure of the building itself. You can see how the metal cladding is attached and in places you might think you are looking at the underpinnings of a roller coaster.
The outside garden sits several stories above ground level with plants and trees from all over the Los Angeles area. The “piece de resistance” for me is the unusual fountain dedicated to Lillian Disney, made of broken pieces of Delft chinaware. The designers thought they were going to get spoils or leftovers but when Delft Pottery in Holland heard that the request was for the Disney Concert Hall they sent brand new china. Can you image being the person who had to break up those beautiful pots?
As a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps a video is worth a million. Click here to see a short virtual tour of Disney Hall.
If you have an MP3 player such as an iPod, you can download podcasts with talks about some of the concerts which you can listen to as you walk around. Although I am not much of a classical music lover I found some of the talks to be fascinating and I almost wanted to buy a ticket to a concert.
You can view construction photos, models, and original design drawings here.
(All photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)