Not quite fitting

The Walt Disney Concert Hall looks great against the sky, but how does it look from anywhere else in the city?

Ric Burns’s New York documentary focused some of its time on the architecture of the city. More specifically, the period in the early 1900s when the tallest building in the world changed owners multiple times, from the Egyptians (The Great Pyramid of Giza), to a number of New Yorkers, as steel became a major component pushing the city upward. In one section of the documentary, the narrators likened the buildings to advertisements of the company who built them. Of course this applies when almost everyone in the city can see the building, such as the Chrysler Building, or in its time, The Woolworth Building. The documentary goes on to describe how people would take lunch and watch the tall buildings, waiting for them to just fall over.

Many of these beautiful buildings have lost most of their dominance of the skyline as even taller buildings cast shadows on them. It goes to reason, then, that when buildings are being built as works of art, they should be removed from competition.

This being said, the most amazing building ever built in Los Angeles county, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, couldn’t have a less appetizing location. Although the structure is allowed breathing room to the East, it is surrounded almost entirely by buildings that tower over it.

The Frank Gehry design is phenomenal. This is the quintessential work of art of an architect of whom the New York Times architecture critic wrote,

The interior of Disney

“[Gehry’s] buildings are powerful essays in primal geometric form and…materials, and from an aesthetic standpoint they are among the most profound and brilliant works of architecture of our time.”

So why hide the building? Of course, the location is central, but as anyone familiar with Los Angeles traffic is aware, no place is easy to get to.

In addition to the complaints from local apartment residents who have criticized the reflective properties of the Hall’s exterior shedding light where the sun don’t typically shine, I will add this: the hall is out of place. Partly to blame is Gehry’s refusal to take the surroundings into account, but mostly it is the county and planning commission who are at fault for this misplaced masterpiece.

If it was Gehry’s plan to contrast the surroundings, he succeeded, but this effect makes it seem odd, not awe inspiring, as it should seem.

Unlike another LA-area masterpiece, The Getty Museum, the Concert Hall does not utilize the striking landscapes of southern California. Richard Meier’s museum is expertly placed in the hills of Santa Monica where most of LA can see it. Granted the cost of the Getty has reached $1 billion, a shocking four times that of Disney. Unfortunately we have not been allowed the chance to see what a location like the Santa Monica hills could do for a work of art like the Disney Concert Hall.

On the grounds of the hall, it is another story, though, and thankfully one can almost escape the surrounding city and be pulled in by the architecture.

-JSB Morse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *