With its soaring stainless-steel panels, the exterior of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall has been likened to everything from a clipper ship to a blooming flower to origami. With the “wow-factor” bar set so high before you’ve even entered, you’d be forgiven for expecting all that glitz to come at a cost when it comes to the practical demands of a performance space, and for preparing yourself for the inevitable letdown. But you’d be wrong. Some people say the experience of hearing a performance in its main hall—a space wrapped by undulating walls and billowing ceilings made of Douglas fir—is like being inside a cello or violin. One feels completely enveloped in the music.
Indeed, performances by the resident Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as a calendar-ful of other outstanding musicians are sensory feasts for not just the ears but the eyes too. The striking central organ was designed to not bring to mind a traditional one from a church or movie theater; its seemingly randomly splayed beams have earned it the playful nickname “French fries.” Two self-guided tours are offered: one, an audio tour, takes visitors through the hall’s history, from conception to completion, with insight from Gehry himself. Another is a 40-minute video walk with an iPad Mini, where you’ll be asked to follow a film shot on the same route you follow; scenes that happen where you are standing stream in front of you. Check the site’s calendar page for upcoming events.
Outside, take a self-guided or guided tour, including a stop at the third-level garden for city views and the rose-shaped Lillian Disney Fountain, made from crushed Delft porcelain and a meant as a tribute to the woman who made the concert hall possible.