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Frank Gehry Walt Disney Concert Hall Photographed by Khalid Salih

The Walt Disney Concert Hall at 111 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, California, is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center and was designed by Frank Gehry.

It opened on October 24, 2003. Bounded by Hope Street, Grand Avenue, and 1st and 2nd Streets, it seats 2,265 people and serves, among other purposes, as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The hall is a compromise between an arena seating configuration, like the Berliner Philharmonie by Hans Sharon,and a classical shoebox design like the Vienna Musikverein or the Boston Symphony Hall.

image © Khalid Salih 


Lillian Disney made an initial gift of $50 million in 1987 to build a performance venue as a gift to the people of Los Angeles and a tribute to Walt Disney's devotion to the arts and to the city.

image © Khalid Salih 


The Frank Gehry–designed building opened on October 24, 2003. Both Gehry's architecture and the acoustics of the concert hall, designed by Minoru Nagata, the final completion supervised by Nagata's assistant and protege Yasuhisa Toyota, have been praised, in contrast to its predecessor, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

image © Khalid Salih 


Frank Gehry delivered completed designs in 1991. Construction of the underground parking garage began in 1992 and was completed in 1996. The garage cost had been $110 million, and was paid for by Los Angeles County, which sold bonds to provide the garage under the site of the planned hall.

image © Khalid Salih 


Construction of the concert hall itself 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 stainless steel skin.

The needed fundraising restarted in earnest in 1996, headed by Eli Broad and then-mayor Richard Riordan. Groundbreaking for the hall was held in December 1999. Delay in the project completion caused many financial problems for the county of LA. The County expected to repay the garage debts by revenue coming from the Disney Hall parking users. 

Upon completion in 2003, the project cost an estimated $274 million; the parking garage alone 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. By comparison, the three existing halls of the Music Center cost $35 million in the 1960s (about $190 million in today's dollars).

image © Khalid Salih 


As construction finished in the spring of 2003, the Philharmonic postponed its grand opening until the fall and used the summer to let the orchestra and Master Chorale adjust to the new hall. Performers and critics agreed that it was well worth this extra time taken by the time the hall opened to the public.During the summer rehearsals a few hundred VIPs were invited to sit in including donors, board members and journalists. Writing about these rehearsals, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed wrote the following account: 

When the orchestra finally got its next [practice] in Disney, it was to rehearse Ravel's lusciously orchestrated ballet, Daphnis and Chloé. … This time, the hall miraculously came to life. Earlier, the orchestra's sound, wonderful as it was, had felt confined to the stage. Now a new sonic dimension had been added, and every square inch of air in Disney vibrated merrily. Toyota says that he had never experienced such an acoustical difference between a first and second rehearsal in any of the halls he designed in his native Japan. Salonen could hardly believe his ears. To his amazement, he discovered that there were wrong notes in the printed parts of the Ravel that sit on the players' stands. The orchestra has owned these scores for decades, but in the Chandler no conductor had ever heard the inner details well enough to notice the errors.

image © Khalid Salih 


The hall met with laudatory approval from nearly all of its listeners, including its performers. In an interview with PBS, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said, "The sound, of course, was my greatest concern, but now I am totally happy, and so is the orchestra,"and later said, "Everyone can now hear what the L.A. Phil is supposed to sound like."This remains one of the most successful grand openings of a concert hall in American history.

The walls and ceiling of the hall are finished with Douglas-fir while the floor is finished with oak. Columbia Showcase & Cabinet Co. Inc., based in Sun Valley, CA, produced all of the ceiling panels, wall panels and architectural woodwork for the main auditorium and lobbies.The Hall's reverberation time is approximately 2.2 seconds unoccupied and 2.0 seconds occupied.


Architect                       : Frank Gehry 

Location                       : 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, California

Client                           : Los Angeles Philharmonic

Project management.  : Terry Bell

Project year                 : 2003

Area                             : 200000 ft²

Design team                : David Pakshong, William Childers, David Hardie, Kristin Woehl

Photographer              : khalid Salih 

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