Friday, October 24, 2003

Disney Hall Clamor


Hello Kari,

As you might (or might not) know the opening Gala of the long awaited Disney Hall took place last night. The concert was broadcast on two NPR stations using the same feed (KCRW and KUSC) and the one commerical classical station (KMZT). Local TV and print media have been all over it. What are people outside of LA saying?

I figured I should visit our "blogparents" and see what is cooking there.

Our "blogparents" were quick to pounce on the NY Times critic with the following jabs:
I was planning to make fun yet again of the NYTimes' absurd and always-hyperventilating radical-architecture propagandist Herbert Muschamp, whose topic today is Frank Gehry's new Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., here. Muschamp is quite the phenomenon, about as dizzy and self-entranced a writer as I've ever run across. I'm not sure this is logically possible, but it seems that every time I read him I think, "He's outdone himself again!" as well as "What's this guy on?"
He is not alone at roasting the NY Times writer and links to another culture watcher where the roasting goes on as seen in this post where the knives are out for not only the NY Times writer but for Gehry and his work.
Building Toward a Greater Revolution
Herbert Muschamp, the New York Times’ uber-pretentious architecture critic is uber the moon today about the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall that opens tonight in Los Angeles.

In Muschamp the Magnificent’s opinion – as if any other mattered – Disney Hall is a wondrous, ecstatic success.
......
How about concert hall into shapeless pile of debris at the stroke of midnight.
In actual fact, Disney Hall is just another one of Gehry’s signature titanium coprolites that litter the sidewalks of Bilbao, Seattle, and Cleveland with alarming frequency.

There is nothing new about this building that was not new the last time or the time before that.

It’s as if Frank Lloyd Wright built Fallingwater over and over again in different locations every few years to ever increasing praise.
So what did the offending NY Times writer say to draw such deliciously malicious glee? See for yourself if you wish. It is actually a pretty funny read and I have to agree there is a certain gradious and frentic way about this guy. But he *liked* the building and the experience! Har, har, a New Yorker liking something in Los Angeles? Unbelieveable!

What follows below are a few excerpts where there is some obligatory Los Angeles bashing and then some nice remarks.
LOS ANGELES — Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is a French curve in a city of T squares. The T squares are loving it madly. Why shouldn't they? Disney Hall was designed for them. It's a home for everyone who's ever felt like a French curve in a T square world.

Designed by Frank Gehry, the $274 million hall opens on Oct. 23. Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonic's charismatic young music director, will conduct "The Rite of Spring." Wrong season, right rite: Disney Hall is a riotous rebirth. Not just for downtown Los Angeles, where the building is situated, and not just for the whole sprawling mixed-up La-La. What is being reborn is the idea of the urban center as a democratic institution: a place where voices can be heard.

Disney Hall has at least a dual personality and moods enough to spare. On the outside it is a moon palace, a buoyant composition of silvery reflected light. Inside, the light shifts to gold.

Sitting atop the downtown Bunker Hill district, Disney Hall is the most gallant building you are ever likely to see. And it will be opening its doors to everyone who has fought for the chance to be generous, to others and to themselves.
.................
When I saw the models of the final design, I remember thinking that the seats on the top row of the house looked a bit sad. There are only a few, widely spaced: they appear exposed. But when I finally got to sit in one, I felt downright special. Seeing those seats from a distance is also a pleasure, because the people sitting in them register as individuals, just as the musicians do. The audience feels less like a mass, more like a diverse assembly. The hall is full of such reminders that architecture is a philosophy of urban life.
...........
You don't need an architecture critic to tell you how beautifully this desert garden is ruled by Surreal juxtaposition. But let me point you toward a fine example of it as an ideal approach to Disney Hall: the fabulous Bunker Hill Steps.

Designed by Lawrence Halprin and completed in 1990, this local landmark ascends 103 steps from the street opposite the downtown Central Library to the top of Bunker Hill. Flanking the grand flight is a set of up and down escalators; down the center, water cascades over rocks.

Because of its height and the baroque curves of its treads, it is often compared to the Spanish Steps in Rome. Usually the comparison is accompanied by snickers. In truth the stairs are a comic piece of infrastructure: the baroque and the mechanized side by side; cold canyon corporate architecture with Mediterranean splash. But thanks to Disney Hall, Halprin's staircase has surpassed the Spanish Steps in cultural substance. The ascent now moves toward an emotional climax. Each skyscraper, plaza and skywalk is a step on the way to one civilizing thought: To speak is human, but to listen is divine.
Two of the three people above could probably stand to take a chill pill or two. I'm pleased to say that our blogparent skated close but pulled back from the abyss.

You can love it or hate it but let's not go ballistic and start ranting one way or the other. I know, I know, maybe its my Angelino pride getting in the way in regards to invisiblehand's rant. I'll admit that. And I suppose NY Times guy is a bit over the top for my rationalistic molecular biologist personality. I'll admit that too.

Writers and bloggers by nature are passionate (!) and rebellious (?) because they are advocates of a point of view and believe what they (we) have to say could (should) be read by others; thus, hyperventilation is normal or merely an sporatic occupational hazard?

At this point, Kari, you would hand me a brown paper bag so I'll stop hyperventilating or would you be egging me on?

Not surprisingly, the LA Times has favorable reveiws here and here.

Be well,
Rene


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