Architect Frank Gehry’s breathtaking Walt Disney Concert Hall, in downtown Los Angeles, was completed in 2003, but its inaugural performance didn’t take place until the following fall. This planned delay gave both the orchestra and the chorale time to adjust to the acoustics. Apparently, the sonic purity of the Hall had revealed never-before recognized imperfections in the music that required modification.
While the interior of the Concert Hall delivers an unparalleled acoustic experience, the exterior provides an equally powerful visual one. The jutting and curved waves of stainless steel send sunlight bouncing off its reflective surfaces, creating a dynamic interplay of light and shade. On a typical sunny day in southern California, the effect is bright and intense. Under cloudy conditions however, the differences between highlight and shadow are reduced and the three-dimensionality of the building is easily seen. Light penetrates further into the spaces between walls, tonal gradations are smoothed, and subtle, reflected colors are revealed.
Don, my son Jesse and I were fortunate to visit this magnificent location under heavy clouds after a winter rainstorm. We spent most of the day in visual study, slowly circling the edifice, marveling at the unpredictable relationships of the forms, and admiring the unique, almost palpable, quality of repeatedly reflected light. As we moved along the stainless walls, diffused colors complimented the artistically placed living elements – plants and trees, and patches of blue sky would wash over the stainless steel and once again, change the color tone.
While the warm, wooden interior of the Concert Hall is justifiably famous for its musical performances, the outer shell of steel, with its unchoreographed performance, is where the complex dance of light and form takes place.