A little over a year ago I traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California on my own two-city tour of several of Frank Gehry’s architectural masterpieces in the United States. In Las Vegas, I saw the Keep Memory Alive Event Center (featured in my February 22, 2015 blog post); and, in Los Angeles, I visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall (home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Los Angeles Master Chorale), one of four cultural venues on the north side of the city that include the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; and, it is nearby other cultural landmarks, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Colburn School of Performing Arts, and the famous soaring Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels.
The 367,000 square foot Walt Disney Concert Hall was initially funded by a $50 million donation by Lillian B. Disney, made in honor of her late husband Walt. The Disney family had a long-standing association with the Los Angeles Music Center, and the donation was a reflection of her husband’s love of music, a love he had shared with the world in his collaboration with conductor Leopold Stokowski to combine classical music with animation in the 1940 film Fantasia.
First and foremost, the concert hall…must be designed and built…to be one of the finest in the world and serve as a permanent tribute to my late husband, Walt Disney.
To find a world-renown architect, a design committee whittled down an initial list of 80 architects from around the world, first selecting 25 then 6, and then to the final 4, before making its final selection. In selecting Frank Gehry for the design of the concert hall, the Committee said that “Gehry has an intuitive ability to understand what people want, with an immediacy that connects to all types of people.” It took 16 years from Lillian’s initial gift in 1987 to the time Walt Disney Concert Hall was ready for the public. And, during that time many patrons and admirers of Disney contributed to the cause that made it a reality. When it finally opened in October 2003, it was recognized as an architectural masterpiece and acoustical marvel, forever changing the musical landscape of Los Angeles.
The building of Walt Disney Concert Hall needed to overcome a series of complex political, planning, management and construction issues, which actually led to a shutdown of the project in 1994. It wasn’t until 1996 that the project began to take form and move towards completion and its opening in October 2003.