Monday, February 29, 2016

Trouble with the Curve

Over 6,000 stainless steel panels comprise the exterior of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and none of them are flat.

I think Frank Gehry must have been on a bender when he designed Seattle's EMP Museum. It's a building which inspires a visceral reaction from some (that being hatred); some people (I imagine, having never met such) must love it; I have always felt somewhat indifferent to its radical design. But after today's L.A. adventure, touring the amazing elegance of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which Gehry designed starting in 1988 and saw through its completion in 2003, I can't help but feel a little ripped off. I'd seen pictures of the Disney Hall and always loved the super-sleek, industrial look; the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain is similarly striking... but the hometown EMP? "Elegance" is not a word that comes to mind.

There is no connection between the concert hall and the Disney Corporation; the name of the building is due to the fact that in 1987, Lillian Disney, Walt's widow, made the initial gift of 50 millions dollars to the City of Los Angeles for the purpose of building a performance venue, but maybe Frank could have used a little Disney magic when he was working in Seattle.

Gehry has said that while the outside of the Disney Hall is industrial, the inside is organic - support columns are designed to look like trees, skylights throughout bring in natural light, and the carpet, which Gehry also designed, was inspired by Lillian Disney's garden. The EMP was inspired by the shape of guitars and more specifically, guitars that had been destroyed, paying tribute, I guess, to the turbulence of rock n' roll, but I think there's a certain kind of elegance to this.