My dad didn’t have to work on day four of my parents’ trip to L.A. And while The Grove and movie-star homes had been on Mom’s wish list, Dad wanted to go to Marina del Rey and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
So we drove downtown for a tour of the hall, which is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The hall was designed by architect Frank Gehry and is easily spotted in downtown’s landscape, thanks to its unique curves and stainless-steel exterior. Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian, contributed $50 million in 1987, and the building was completed in 2003 at a cost of $274 million.
Here’s a view of downtown Los Angeles from the Disney Concert Hall:
The tour focused on the architecture of the building and not the music that is played inside. Tours are not allowed in the concert hall itself, so as not to disrupt rehearsals.
Don’t get me wrong, the architecture was indeed impressive, but the tour guide recited the facts like a history professor I had in college, without offering much context or weaving together any narrative. Perhaps Los Angeles County needs to hire me for its marketing.
Good thing the tour was free. Next time we’ll try the audio tour, which is narrated by John Lithgow. The lobby is open during the day if you just want to take a glimpse inside, and there’s a good gift shop. You can read reviews — written when the Disney Music Hall opened — in Architecture Week here and the Los Angeles Times here.
Gehry used Douglas fir wood for the columns in the lobby of the Disney Concert Hall because of its similarity to the wood used in musical instruments:
Gehry designed this rose-shaped fountain in the garden surrounding the Disney Concert Hall. It was for Lillian, who loved Delft porcelain and roses:
Gehry, who lives in Los Angeles, is something of a celebrity architect, and Vanity Fair magazine has called him the most important architect of our age. (Read the article and see a slide show of some of his work here.)
Gehry is known for his post-structuralist work, which means he doesn’t follow the famous principle that “form follows function.” This is apparent when you take a look at his buildings. He is perhaps best known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Gehry also has designed furniture; the 1996 World Cup of Hockey; a hat for Lady Gaga; and a jewelry collection for Tiffany & Co. My favorite is this bracelet, but this necklace is a bit more affordable.
Gehry’s proposed Eisenhower Museum in Washington, D.C., is being criticized by some. Read this Feb. 18 interview in The Guardian about Gehry’s legacy.
The LA Philharmonic is led by dynamic young conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who was named to TIME magazine’s “top 100 most influential people” list in 2009. Read the article here. Dudamel recently led all of Mahler’s symphonies with two orchestras: the L.A. Phil and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, which he also conducts. In May, Dudamel will present “Don Giovanni,” the first performance in the Mozart/Da Ponte Triology. The opera will feature stage design by Gehry and costumes by Rodarte, a fashion and costume designer for the movie “Black Swan.”
Later that evening, we headed up Mount Hollywood to the Griffith Observatory for more dramatic vistas. The observatory opened in 1935 and has been featured in many movies and TV shows. After we took Kenley’s parents in June, we added the Griffith to the must-see list for visitors. (You can read about Kenley’s parents’ trip here.)
Be warned that parking can be a nightmare on crowded holiday weekends, but it is worth it. While science geeks like Kenley are fascinated by the telescopes, exhibits and the scale representation of the solar system, the real attraction (in my opinion) are the views of the Hollywood sign and the sprawling city of Los Angeles as the sun sets.
Back on the west side, we had dinner at James’ Beach in Venice. The restaurant was recently featured in the comedy “I Love You, Man,” when Jason Segel and Paul Rudd do some male bonding over fish tacos. The restaurant has an upscale yet relaxed and beachy vibe, and can be boisterous. The fish tacos and James’ Beach have been added to our lists of favorites in L.A.
My parents left the next day, New Year’s Eve, and Kenley and I had to go back to work, so we weren’t able to ring in 2012 with any Champagne. But we’ll make up for that later.