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Will a City in Search of a Symbol Find One in Its New Concert Hall?

October 22, 2003|Robin Rauzi.

On Thursday, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Frank O. Gehry's architectural fusion of fantasy and high tech, formally opens atop Bunker Hill. At the least, it will provide the city with a home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, an experimental theater space and a new meaning for the word "Disneyfication." But some of its backers promised more: a signature for a city without a symbol. Are its stainless steel waves and sails up to the task?

One symbol of Los Angeles used to be City Hall, with Jack Webb on "Dragnet" saying, "This is the city .... " But there is no commanding Los Angeles architectural icon. Now, in different ways, the cathedral and Disney Hall will do this work. That doesn't mean the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is going to disappear. It suggests the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Los Angeles first took itself seriously as a great world city. Disney Hall points into the 21st century.

Kevin Starr,

state librarian and USC history professor


Why shouldn't Disney Hall become the flagship signifier for the whole Planet L.A.? It's right there in the bellybutton of the city. It's got a language all its own -- its wavy-gravy architecture. If it were an insurance company, it wouldn't have the same impact. If it were the Rand headquarters, we'd be thinking differently. It's the perfect package: culture and great architecture.

Ed Ruscha, artist


The perception was that Hollywood and Los Angeles were one and the same thing. Now, Disney Hall is going to be perceived as part of the real face of Los Angeles.

Ernest Fleischmann, managing director

of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, 1969-1998,

oversaw original planning for Disney Hall.


A lot of communities have beaches. Yet a community that also has, say, a vibrant and active ballet, promises to deliver a better beach. Something as conspicuously creative and ambitious as Disney Hall, rooted in the arts, smack in the middle of downtown, makes for a better beach.

Michael Collins, executive vice president

of LA Inc., the Convention and Visitors Bureau


The celebration of the individual is a fundamental component of Los Angeles, from its attachment to the private house to the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Any public building must be able to negotiate with the city's mythology of talent and personal aspiration. Disney Concert Hall occupies this cusp in inventive and provocative ways.

Sylvia Lavin, chair of the UCLA

Department of Architecture and Urban Design


We're moving from a suburban to an urban culture. This building not only changes the perception of the city of Los Angeles as a cultural center, it also shifts the center of gravity toward downtown.

Richard Koshalek, president, Art Center

College of Design; chairman of the

Disney Hall architectural search committee


What Disney Hall shows is that L.A. is the capital of what's next. I like to say we're the inventors of the Internet, the bikini, the fortune cookie -- and now the greatest new architecture. It will truly become the icon for Los Angeles.

Richard Riordan, Los Angeles mayor, 1993-2001,

backed the Disney Hall fund-raising campaign.

Compiled by arts writer Robin Rauzi.

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