Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Masterpiece

The most satisfying of all creative endeavors must be to design a building that is a bold artistic statement, a monumental construction project, and a stunning functional showcase for present and future generations of musical expression. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is all that, and yet, like the grandest photo that still doesn't do justice to the Grand Canyon, words are inadequate to describe the magnetic grandeur that is architect Frank Gehry's masterpiece.

At a block's distance, WDCH is all sensuous curves of buffed stainless steel, a continuously changing play of light and shadow in asymmetrical symmetry. It is perfect abstract balance. It is Kandinsky in his geometric phase, especially when colorfully lit up at night. As a mere art object....WDCH would have been genius.

But this is an acoustically-perfect, elegant 2,265 seat concert hall. The Hall was constructed of 12,500 pieces of steel which weigh over 11,000 tons, 300 tons of bolts and welds, and 18,000 cubic yards of concrete. Because of the building's curved surfaces and exacting design specifications, structural beams had to be placed by a 750,000 lb crane using the most sophisticated aerospace software. The interior is equally stunning....8 skylights with 3-inch thick glass were designed to retain natural lighting. The large "tree trunk" columns in the lobby are made entirely of straight-grained Douglas fir, as this material closely approximates the wood used in musical instruments. A list of fascinating details and touches would go on and on.

When WDCH opened in October 2003, the New York Times gushed, "Clad in a shimmering skin of stainless steel, the hall's volumptuous swirling forms evoke the contours of full-blown sails tacking in the wind, but Gehry rises above literal representation and ascends into poetic abstraction. He has given Los Angeles its long-awaited crowning glory."

WDCH is one of the world's great architectural marvels, an American counterpart to Egypt's ancient pyramids. How delightful that it was built as a home for and monument to fine music.

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