Walt Disney Concert Hall–so wrong or just right?

Walt Disney Concert Hall from City Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall from City Hall

In the course of my month as a couch potato recovering from surgery, I’ve embarked on an LA culture fest. I read LA Confidential, The Age of Dreaming, and Vampyres of Hollywood by (oh yes) Adrienne Barbeau. I have worked my way through the first three seasons (and then some) of Angel, and one night, in a break from the cultural junk food I watched Sidney Pollack’s Sketches of Frank Gehry with some friends which led to a heated debate about Los Angeles’ aesthetics.

At some point during the movie, Gehry is talking about scaling down the plans for the Walt Disney Concert Hall so that it better coordinates with the Dorothy Chandler. And here’s the rub: All four of us watching agreed that, in fact, the Disney doesn’t really coordinate with the Chandler at all. I mean, we’re talking Chuck Taylor All Stars with a little black dress here. But what we couldn’t agree on is whether or not that visual clash is a good thing.I maintain that much of LA’s visual appeal has to do with it’s ugliness or really grotesqueness. I have often said that LA is like Cher’s kid in The Mask: it’s so ugly that it’s attractive in a weird sort of way. I think LA has freak show aesthetics. It has little casitas over here and high modern houses over there. There are ugly ass streets filled with muffler shops and little canyon roads with horses and goats peppering the lawns, signage in every kind of language, neon and deco and slab concrete. City planning by Frankenstein. Maybe the fact that I grew up in DC, an uber-planned city, is what makes me particularly fond of LA’s poly-tecture. The fact that the Disney Concert Hall looks like a giant space ship plopped down on Grand Street seems perfect to me. Is it just me? What do you all think? Do you love it? Hate it? Is LA’s lack of coherence something to mourn or celebrate? And all you haters who are getting ready to post comments about how I cannot possibly understand or comment on LA’s essence because I am a transplant–yawn–save it please.

(Jimw’s photo used through Creative Commons license. Click to Embiggen.)

6 Replies to “Walt Disney Concert Hall–so wrong or just right?”

  1. I too am a fan of the polyglot nature of LA. And I love having the Concert Hall down there like an out-of-place high-desert cactus flower, unfurling its prickly blossom to capture water from the sky. I hear lots of people say how ugly it is, but just because something is different or “out of place” doesn’t make it ugly.

  2. I love the historic buildings Downtown. But let the new be new. If you start off making them seem like the old, they’ll be forgotten before they become historic.

    Disney Hall is…interesting from afar (it’s alright but I don’t have a preference for that wackadoo style of architecture). But up close it’s pretty awesome – great for photography.

  3. I love, love, love Disney Hall. But I think it does a terrible job of relating to its surroundings or creating any kind of public space around it. It’s a place for people to drive to from somewhere else, not to experience as part of a larger neighborhood. Hopefully that will change as Grand Ave. develops, but I doubt it.

  4. I agree with Oren. I’m crazy about the Disney, and think that Gehry’s coming along in the late 20th century with a design (along with his Guggenheim Bilbao) that is so (literally) out of the box is genius. However, I never think of the Disney as part of its surroundings, so if that was a goal, I don’t think that goal has been met. Hopefully it will be so integrated in the future, as Oren says.

    BTW, I dated a woman who lived on the street in Santa Monica where Gehry built his first house for himself. I think the house is in the Pollack documentary. We didn’t know it was a Gehry. We only knew that there was this crazy house that looked like it was thrown together from Home Depot parts, including corrugated metal and chain link fence. We both thought the house was hideous. I guess you have to start somewhere.

  5. Personally, I’m a fan of Disney Concert Hall. I got to go on a private photo tour a few months ago and that was fabulous! I can’t say my photos are that great, but I had a great time.

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