L.A.'s newest icon: the Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Ariel Nuncio

“What you're going to see are the designs and pictures and stories that music inspired in the minds and imaginations of a group of artists.” These words, spoken by the narrator of Fantasia (1940), Walt Disney's animated tribute to the works of eight classical composers, could just as easily apply to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Designed by architect Frank Gehry and Japanese acoustics experts Yasuhisa Toyota and Minoru Nagata, the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is architecture set to music.

The Hall is actually a complex of five performance and education facilities, including an outdoor garden, two outdoor amphitheaters—one for children's shows and a second stage for an audience of 120—and the independent Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), a 250-seat theater and art gallery.

The main auditorium seats 2,265 people. It features hardwood walls and a pioneering canopy ceiling made of Douglas fir (the wood used to make fine musical instruments). Seats are terraced around and above the orchestra platform, so the audience encircles the stage. There is seating at either side and below the massive forty-ton pipe organ, which has 6,134 pipes. Overall, the auditorium's design is as elegant, intimate and acoustically rich as any music lover could ever hope for.

The Hall includes a posh restaurant, Patina, and a more casual café. A terrace bar overlooks the Atrium Reception Hall. The main bar is on the third level. The pre-concert foyer holds up to 600 people and is designed for a variety of events. The Hall doesn't offer private boxes for wealthy patrons, but the Founders Room provides special amenities for prominent donors and guests.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is on the north side of downtown Los Angeles, at the intersection of First Street and Grand Avenue. Its location, size (3.6 acres) and striking design make it easily identifiable from many directions. Look for a stainless-steel building that resembles a cartoonist's idea of a futuristic urban skyline.

Leopold Stokowski, the conductor Disney hired to guide the Fantasia orchestra, believed that “the beauty and inspiration of music must not be restricted to a privileged few but made available to every man, woman and child.” Disney shared this conviction. He would have been proud of the concert hall that bears his name.

Unlike most concert halls, this one is open to the public all day long, and there is no admission fee (except of course for scheduled events).