“The sailing building is becoming his identity ” was often heard of Gehry when the world mentioned of the Walt Disney Concert Hall [1]. In 1987, Lillian Disney commissioned Gehry to design the Concert hall in the honour of her late husband Walt. The building was to be built in the downtown of Los Angeles in late 1980s where the idea of postmodernism was restricted to tall buildings, metal-glass structures and “form follows function”. During this time, Gehry had decided to leave an icon for the city, with sculpture oriented design process and his love for sailing [2]. During the competition presentation, many jurors were sceptical of his ideas, while during the design process, the Engineers thought of Gehry as a mad man designing impractical buildings. But when it actually got built, people loved and embraced the Concert hall. It eventually became Gehry’s identity and style, soon after Bilbao museum got built.

Project Name – Walt Disney Concert Hall
Project type – Concert Hall
Location – 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California U.S.A.
Year of completion – October 2003
Architect – Frank Owen Gehry Architects
Area – 200000.0 sqft
Acoustics Consultants – Yasuhisa Toyota and Nagata Acoustics, Inc., Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc.
Exterior Wall Consultant – Gordon H. Smith Corporation
Client – Los Angeles Philharmonic

Gehry was never trusted for such a large scale project before the Concert hall. Gehry could understand the scale and volume of the concert hall. He knew that he wasn’t going to design a mickey mouse building for Walt Disney. He wanted to make the concert hall a celebration of music and realised how important acoustics were, for the project. The Building is in five levels and multiple entrances make the building approachable from many sides of the street corner. Looking at the plan, all spaces organically make Concert Hall, the locus. On the ground floor, is the BP Hall where preconcerts are performed. [3]. Few landscaped gardens and open amphitheatre are located on above levels of the hall [4]. The performing Orchestra is staged in the centre of the Auditorium, where the energy of performers would reciprocate and cheer the audience. He had visualised the Auditorium to be like a box, which later enveloped the space like drapes [5]. Naturally lightened spaces retain the daylight and connect to the exteriors [6]. One can see the steel structure supporting the Silver Skin of the Hall, at places [7]. Douglas fir wood and White Colour is used for the interiors space [8]. The wild and dreamy colours in the space come from the floral carpet spread on the Staircase and everywhere else [9]. The space inside the Hall is equally warm and welcoming, the way Gehry imagined the vibe of people in Los Angeles. People like to call his style of design as deconstructivist. The Stairs and elevators in the building take one through and around the building. Since the building has got multiple level entrances and connections, It’s very Extroverted in nature, contradicting to the feeling its exterior gives. The details, on the other hand, do not scream of extravagantness. There are subtle details like the Handrails added in the auditorium to leave a hint of the classical feel, The flooring used as signage in the BP Hall and Inscribed name of Donors on the wall [10].

Initially, the exterior of the building was proposed in Stone. But due to budget constraints and rigidity of form, Titanium Sheets were used to reducing cost. Turns out the Shiny Sheet became the identity of Los Angeles. Gehry was never willing to use conventional building materials of the time. All the City Halls and Public buildings should learn from this bold marvel. The drawings were not able to convey Gehry’s sculptural and complex idea to Engineers at a point, and he was frustrated about it. So the firm started designing using the 3D modelling software called ‘CATIA’ used to design French Aircraft back in the time [11]. Even a 1:10 scale model with actual material and sound was built to test the acoustics of the Hall. The Gehry style opened up an arena in architecture for more experimental and inspiring work across the world. It set a challenge for the Broad, an upcoming museum across the street designed by DS+R Architects and many more buildings shaping the sky of the city. It rationalised the emphasis of Architecture in any city, making the Hall a landmark of City and Style of Gehry!


Jinal Shah is currently in her Fourth year of Bachelor’s in Interior Design at Cept University, India. She is presently pursuing her internship at BAMO Inc in San Francisco, USA. Being an avid traveler and curious explorer, her understanding for global design evolved as she spent one semester abroad studying as an exchange student at DAAP, University of Cincinnati, United States, attended design workshops around the world. She has always found herself on the Interior Architecture threshold, exploring volumes and connectivity, throughout all her academic projects.Jinal is an active (old school) learner and a firm believer that design is a deep blue sea and each one of us is merely sailing to find that just perfect dimension of a handrail. Details and minimalism appeal her along the path to function and simplicity in design. While desiring to find meaning in design with constant experimentation, Jinal aspires to explore the niche of Architecture Journalism in the future.

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