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
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).