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10 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles, California
Frank Gehry, 2003

Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles Photo Credit: Steve Smith

Inspired by his love of sailing, Gehry’s billowing forms wrap the building. Photo Credit: Steve Smith

While construction of Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (shown here) was completed sooner, the design for the Disney Concert Hall was his earliest project incorporating his now-trademark stainless-steel curves.

By Gehry’s own description, the curves of stainless steel envelop a “box” that holds the concert hall. Photo Credit: Steve Smith

The highly complex forms Gehry designs created a construction challenge. Photo Credit: Steve Smith

At night, the Disney Concert Hall reflects the colors of downtown Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Alan Brunettin

Frank Gehry is known for exploring fluid forms through hand-drawn sketches. Shown here, an early drawing for the Disney Concert Hall. Photo Credit: Gehry Partners

Another early drawing for the Disney Concert Hall. Photo Credit: Gehry Partners

A model of the Disney Concert Hall Photo Credit: Gehry Partners

Gehry employed sophisticated software (originally used to design and build French fighter jets) to translate his billowing forms into a buildable plan.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Squint your eyes, and Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles looks like a gleaming clipper ship, its sails filled with wind. The stainless steel exterior forms, which were in fact inspired by Gehry’s love of sailing, have now become iconic.

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While many people first became familiar with Gehry through his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, his design for the Walt Disney Concert Hall actually predates the Bilbao commission. However, Gehry continued to redesign the Disney Concert Hall for more than a decade, while unexpected delays postponed construction.

Gehry’s innovative forms were a new and unfamiliar challenge for contractors. Gehry ultimately found a solution equal to his design: he employed software used in the design and construction of French fighter jets. Called CATIA (computer-sided three-dimensional interactive application), this software translates Gehry’s organic forms, panel by panel, into buildable construction plans.

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To bring his bold new vision for the Walt Disney Concert Hall to life, architect Frank Gehry needed new tools. He turned to sophisticated computer software called CATIA (computer-aided three-dimensional interactive application), originally created to design French fighter jets. Watch the story.

Such a bold exterior could give the impression that what’s inside is equally out of the box. But surprisingly, the concert hall itself, by Gehry’s own description, is just that: a highly functional box, wrapped in his now-trademark sail-like forms.

That’s not to say that the interior is not an accomplishment in its own right. Gehry designed the auditorium to provide both impeccable acoustics and a sense of intimacy, wrapping the audience around the orchestra.

Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall stands out as a truly unique architectural vision, demonstrating that something new and completely different is possible.

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Loyola Law School Los Angeles
For a look at some of Gehry’s earlier, funkier work before the Walt Disney Concert Hall, visit the campus of Loyola Law School Los Angeles, just west of downtown Los Angeles – or take this virtual tour online.

Loyola chose Gehry to design its new campus in 1978, before he became the “starchitect” who had designed Disney Concert Hall, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and other now-famous structures.