Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Disney Concert Hall

The Frank Gehry-designed billowing steel Disney Concert Hall is becoming an iconic structure in LA and has appeared on TV and in movies including The Simpsons, Iron Man and the Get Smart movie. A pewter souvenir building is still available from the concert hall’s giftshop. The miniature is two-dementional with engraved information on back and comes in presentation box for $30. Although I own one, I’m not enamored with the ‘flat’ 2-D replica building and wish they were also available in 3-D. The real Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, California seats 2,265 people and as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.Various concerts and other events are also held there. The new concert hall idea begain in 1987, when Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, donated $50 million to the project. While the architecture (as with other Gehry works) evoked polarized opinions, the acoustics of the concert hall (designed by Yasuhisa Toyota) were widely praised. The project survived despite many ups and downs, delays and changes. Construction of the concert hall 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 metal skin. The needed fundraising restarted in earnest in 1996, after the real estate depression passed and groundbreaking for the hall was held in December 1999. Delays in the project completion caused many financial problems for the county of LA. Upon completion in 2003, the project had cost an estimated $274 million, including the parking garage which had solely cost $110 million. The remainder of the total cost was paid by private donations, of which the Disney family's contribution was estimated to $84.5 million with another $25 million from The Walt Disney Company. After the construction, modifications were made to the Founders Room exterior; while most of the building's exterior was designed with stainless steel given a matte finish, the Founders Room and Children's Amphitheater were designed with highly polished mirror-like panels. The reflective qualities of the surface were amplified by the concave sections of the Founders Room walls. Some residents of the neighboring condominiums suffered glare caused by sunlight that was reflected off these surfaces and concentrated in a manner similar to a parabolic mirror. The resulting heat made some rooms of nearby condominiums unbearably warm, caused the air-conditioning costs of these residents to skyrocket and created hot spots on adjacent sidewalks of as much as 60 ºC (140 ºF). After complaints from neighboring buildings and residents, the owners asked Gehry Partners to come up with a solution. Their response was a computer analysis of the building's surfaces identifying the offending panels. In 2005 these were dulled by lightly sanding the panels to eliminate unwanted glare.

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