Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Bradbury Building is an architectural landmark
  • Address: 111 South Grand Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90012
  • Type: Concert hall
  • Architect: Frank Gehry
  • Opened: 2003 

General Information 

Walt Disney Concert Hall opened October 23, 2003 and is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center. The hall is an architectural landmark in downtown Los Angeles with is stainless steel curved exterior that shine in the California sun.

The hall was designed by the architect Frank Gehry. Gehry vision for the exterior of the hall would be based on sailing ships. Frank Gehry said “Now the shapes of the exterior of Disney Hall are based on sailing. When you’re wing-on-wing, with the wind behind you, it forms a beautiful space. And if you look at the front of the Disney Hall, its wing-on-wing, it’s the two sails, and you’re at the helm.”

Walt Disney Concert Hall is the home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. This 3.6 acre complex includes public park, gardens, shops as wells as two outdoor amphitheaters for children's and preconcert events. The William K. Keck Children's Ampitheatre which has seating for 300. The Roy and Edna Disney/ CalArts Theater (REDCAT), is a 250 seat multi-use theater on the southwest corner of the complex.


This project began in 1987 when Walt Disney's widow, Lillian Disney, made an initial gift of $50 million to create this Concert Hall as a tribute to her late husband's devotion to the arts and the people of Los Angeles. Frank Gehry , a top US architect, was chosen as the architect in 1988. Gehry made several hundred conceptual models and eventually 30,000 computer drawings. He unveiled the final shape of the complex in 1991. Los Angeles County initiated construction of the parking garage in 1992. The six-story underground parking garage was funded with public funds. This was completed in 1996 and the construction of the Concert Hall began in 1999.

Originally, Gehry intended the building to be covered in stone. It was changed to stainless steel. Partly because he felt the shiny surface would work well changing and reflecting from the Southern California sun. While the Walt Disney Concert Hall was being constructed, California experienced the 1994 Northidge earthquake. This 6.7 magnitude earthquake resulted in seventy-two deaths, over 9,000 injuries, and estimated $20 billion in damage. This was another factor in the decision to change the exterior to stainless steel. During the construction of the Hall, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels were built. Frank Gehry was the architect for Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. This structure has huge carved and folded stainless steel and panels similar to the Disney Concert Hall. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels was built two blocks away. Both buildings were completed long before the Concert Hall grand opening.

The long awaited ribbon-cutting ceremony was formally dedicated on October 20, 2003. This architectural landmark took 16 years and 274 million dollars to build. At the ceromony, building tycoon Eli Broad, one of the principal fund contributors for this building, said "The Walt Disney Concert Hall is a new symbol of our city." Broad continued that "It will really join the Eiffel tower in Paris, the parliament houses in London and the Sydney Opera House as one of the most photographed buildings in the world." Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and outgoing Governor Gray Davis attended the ceremony. Gehry said he tried "to make it a beautiful room to listen to music and to experience the Los Angeles Philharmonic as it's never been experienced before." Walt Disney Concert Hall opened on October 23, 2003.

Inside the Hall

Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall from the inside out. The most important issue was that "the musicians could come on stage, feel at home, and hear each other." Through intimacy and inclusion he sought to create a "synergy." Gehry said the building's gardening theme was a tribute to animation mogul Walt Disney's widow, Lillian.

The lobby has large "tree-trunk" made of Douglas fir. Douglas fir was used throughout the Hall because of its aesthetic similarity to wood used in musical instruments. In addition to supporting the building both visually and structurally, the columns are used to deliver air conditioning and lighting.

At the center (literally and figuratively) is the main auditorium. The main auditorium, designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, is one of the finest acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world. This 2,265 seat auditorium was designed to look and feel like a ship's hull. The swooping concave walls of staggered wood panels hold the tarraced seating in the "vineyard" layout that was made famous by the Berlin Philharmonic. The audience surrounds the stage, which is slightly higher than the adjacent orchestra seats. Contrary to the usual venue elitism, no private boxes were included.

Toyota felt the billowing wood ceiling that hangs lightly over the space, strategically placed to achieve the early sound reflection was critical. It has been suggested that there is an illusion of being inside a living creature because of the resultant vibrancy of the sound.

The design of the hall included a large concert organ. The organ's facade was designed by Gehry in consultation with Manuel Rosales, organ consultant and sound designer. There were many designs for the organ and initially many were impractical. As the design became more practical, it became boring for Gehry. Gehry came up with a design that the curved wooden pipes concept.

The organ was built by Caspar Glatter-Götz, German organ builder, under the direction and voicing of Manuel Rosales. The organ is a gift to the Los Angeles County from Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A, Inc.

The interior preconcert foyer mimics the finishes of the main auditorium, but instead of wood panels Douglas fir is used. The walls reach up to the roof, drawing light from one of the building's four large skylights. This space is one of the few places where the warmth of the interior paneling, the strength of the steel structure, and the California sunlight can simultaneously be experienced.

The Garden

Not obvious from looking main entrance at street level, but there is a garden 34 feet above Hope Street on the top of the Concert Hall. It is a great vantage point to view many of Los Angeles landmarks.

This public park was funded by the State of California and designed by Melida Taylor. The garden is filled with variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials. Meticulously selected to ensure that something will be in bloom year-round. Taylor concept for this garden was to select trees from all over the world.

To insure that the trees would survive the Southern California climate, she travels to residential neighborhoods in Southern California. When she found a tree, she would ask the resident to donate it. A 350-ton crane would hoist the trees to the garden. The trees were carefully planted to face the same direction they had originally faced. The trees thrive because of specially designed planter boxes.

Lillian Disney Memorial Fountain

In the garden facing Hope Street, is the Lillian Disney Memorial Fountain. The fountain was designed by Frank Gehry, in honor of the project's primary benefactor. Gehry knew that Lillian Disney (1899-1997) loved roses and Royal Deft porcelain (creamy white china pottery with blue designs, from the Delft region of the Netherlands), Gehry from a rose from reinforced iron bars, steel mesh, and waterproofed concrete. Broken pieces of Delft vases and tiles were applied to the fountain into a mosaic design.

Reflection Problems

Most of the building's exterior was designed with stainless steel with a matte finish, the Children's Amphitheater and the Founders Room were given a highly polished mirror-like panels. The concave sections of the Founders Room walls amplified the reflective qualities of these surfaces. For the residents of the neighboring condominiums suffered glare problems because of the sunlight reflecting off of these surfaces.

The heat in the nearby condominiums resulted in skyrocketing electric bills. Certain spots on the sidewalk were reported to be 140°F. After complaints from the neighboring residents, a computer analysis of the building's surface was done. In 2005 the identifying panels were dulled by lightly sanding the panels to eliminate unwanted glare.


1. ^ a b c d e "Landmark Disney concert hall dedicated in Los Angeles". chinadaily.com. http://www.chinadaily.com/cn/doc/2003-10./21/content_274019.htm. Retrieved on 2009-07-28.
2. ^ a b Brochure "Architectural and Garden Highlights Walt Disney Concert Hall". Music Center Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County.
3. ^ a b "Walt Disney Concert Hall". wikipedia.org. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney_Concert_Hall. Retrieved on 2009-07-28.
4. ^ a b "About the Walt Disney Concert Hall ". LA Phil. http://www.laphil.com/about/wdch_overview.cfm. Retrieved on 2009-07-27.


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