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Disney hall vet has new gig

October 03, 2003|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

With Walt Disney Concert Hall earning high praise even before it has opened, the directors of a planned new performing arts center in Kansas City have hired its acoustician, Yasuhisa Toyota, while dumping another leading name in the concert-acoustics field, Russell Johnson.

The issues were cost and a concern about keeping the sound design simple, according to Richard Pilbrow, whose Connecticut-based Theatre Projects Consultants is involved with the equipping and interior design of Disney Hall and the Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center.

The New York City-based Johnson's approach involves movable, motorized canopies and panels that can be adjusted for each performance depending on the size of the ensemble and the style of the music. Toyota favors a simpler, one-hall-fits-all strategy.

Leaders of the $304-million Kansas City project had been working with Johnson since the 1990s, Pilbrow said, before souring on him in recent months. Plans call for a two-hall complex opening in 2007.

Toyota said Thursday that Moshe Safdie, architect of the Kansas City project, contacted him several months ago. Safdie, a friend of Disney Hall designer Frank O. Gehry, met Toyota last spring at the opening of the Gehry- and Toyota-designed Fisher Center at Bard College in New York.

The Orange County Performing Arts Center's president, Jerry E. Mandel, affirmed his support for Johnson and his acoustic philosophy, which is being employed in a $200-million concert hall scheduled to open in Costa Mesa in 2006.

Johnson, in a prepared statement, said that his adjustable devices "have proven themselves ... in a whole series of internationally acclaimed concert halls around the world" and vowed to make the 2,000-seat Costa Mesa hall "a model for future concert halls around the world for years to come."

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