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Problem With Disney Hall

Posted by acdtest on February 24, 2004

Problem With Disney Hall

This report from The Associated Press on a problem with Disney Hall.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The glare off the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s shimmering stainless steel curves is so intense it’s heating up nearby condos at least 15 degrees, neighbors complain.

Before concert hall officials recently ordered a temporary fix, reflections from Frank Gehry’s $274 million architectural landmark, which opened in October, hit Jaqueline Lagrone just as she arrived home for lunch.

“You couldn’t even see and then the furniture would get really hot,” said Lagrone, 42, whose unit faces the new hall. “You would have to literally close the drapes and you’d still feel warmth in the house. You would have the air conditioning on all the time.”

The reflection off one corner of the building known as the Founders Room can drive up temperatures as much as 15 degrees, some condo owners claim.

That corner is clad in a glossy, mirror-like steel that reflects the sun more harshly than duller brushed steel used elsewhere. Disney Hall officials have put up a temporary synthetic net while they work on a permanent solution – dulling the shine.

“We’ve chosen a sort of sandblasted finish,” Gehry partner Terry Bell said.

Architects considered the impact of the shiny steel on neighboring buildings, Bell said. But during construction, the curving sheets of metal ended up facing a slightly different angle than plans called for, he said.

Disney Hall is so drop-dead gorgeous, and such an architectural masterpiece aesthetically and acoustically, I’m tempted to say that the solution to the problem is simple: Demolish the condominiums, and relocate the tenants. Or to put it more succinctly: Let ’em eat cake.

As I said, I’m tempted to say that, but I won’t.

Oh dear. I already have, haven’t I.

Quel dommage.


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The Devil’s Way

Posted by acdtest on December 16, 2003

The Devil’s Way

ell, well, well. Seems the anti-“modernist”-architecture cult is out in proselytizing force these past few days, spewing the tendentious, cleverly deceitful dogma for which it’s (in)famous. Weblogger and True Believer Michael Blowhard of 2Blowhards invited his favorite fellow True Believer and credentialed backer-upper — university professor, mathematician, and self-styled architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros — to air on 2Blowhards his less formal views on architecture, and Dr. Salingaros complied by writing an informal essay on the work of the great 20th-century architect Louis Kahn which can be read here.

Before examining this charming bit of anti-“modernist” propaganda, we should first try to make clear just what it is this cult’s acolytes mean by the term “modernist” when referring to the domain of architecture as they don’t use the term historically, but descriptively. Best we can make out, what the term refers to when used by these True Believers is 20th- or 21st-century architecture that eschews literal or recognizable use of “traditional” (i.e., pre-20th-century) architectural forms and ornament, or when applied to architects, those who eschew the same in their buildings’ design.

Get it?


So, to proceed…

Dr. Salingaros begins his essay on Kahn with a splendid rhetorical flourish.

1. Which Kahn?

First let’s get the architect’s identity straight. There are three Kahns in American architecture: Albert Kahn; Ely Jacques Kahn; and Louis Isadore Kahn.

Uh-huh. A bit like saying:

1. Which Jesus?

First, let’s get this redeemer’s identity straight. There are three Jesuses in redeemer history: Jesus Jones; Jesus Aloysius Smith; and Jesus The Christ.

In point of fact, in American architecture, the name Kahn without qualification means Louis Isadore Kahn and no other. Always. Albert Kahn, in the first half of the 20th century, specialized, and was influential, in the design of American industrial buildings (and very good he was at it, too), but is known for nothing beyond that; and Ely Jacques Kahn is merely (and justifiably) an historical footnote in American architectural history, if that. Louis Isadore Kahn, on the other hand, is numbered among the architectural giants not merely of American architecture, and not merely of the 20th century, but of world architecture, and of all time.

But let’s not berate Dr. Salingaros for his opening flourish too severely. His essay is, after all, intended to gather new True Believers into the fold by vilifying his cult’s archenemy, modernism (as it’s defined by this cult), and vilifying as well modernism’s followers, admirers, and fellow travelers.

Dr. Salingaros then continues,

The third Kahn [i.e., Louis Kahn] was the champion of modernism that we know so well — the Kahn of “what does a brick want to become?”

Well, that goes beyond mere rhetorical flourish, and straightaway into the willfully deceitful.

Kahn was no “champion of modernism”; either the cult’s definition, or the historical one. Kahn was a one-off, and if he championed anything it was his own unique and profound aesthetic vision. No follower he, and no ideologue or promoter of ideologies, modernist (in its historical sense) or other.

Dr. Salingaros then compounds that willfully deceitful statement by another.

The “official” histories of architecture are written so as to imply that genuinely homegrown American innovation in architecture really took off with Louis Kahn and Philip Johnson.

That statement is so rife with error it boggles the mind. Accurate “histories of architecture,” official or otherwise, would most probably assert that genuinely homegrown American innovation in architecture really took off with Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright; certainly none so late as Kahn and Johnson.

But that last willfully deceitful straw man is there for a purpose beyond the merely misleading, and that is to act as the setup for what immediately follows; viz.,

To think this way is ridiculous, but it represents modernist dogma and is not meant to be supported by either reality or facts. To criticize Kahn’s work amounts to criticizing the spirit of American Architecture.

See? Dr. Salingaros now, in one fell swoop, gets to label modernists as ridiculous dogmatists and willful deceivers (in Freudian terms, Dr. Salingaros’s labeling modernists in that way is known as “projection”), and characterize preemptively those who would criticize his following criticisms of Kahn’s work as little more than lackeys of modernism.

Pretty slick, huh?

Then, to lend greater weight to all that follows, Dr. Salingaros invokes the cult’s Magic Name — the name of the cult’s undisputed Guru — in tandem with his own.

Christopher Alexander and I were talking about famous modernist architects, and Louis Kahn’s name came up.

And what did Guru Alexander have to say about Kahn?

I cannot bring it in my heart to criticize the guy, since he always went out of his way to be nice to me when I was a young man. He really liked me, and amazingly, he sounded just like I do when he talked. Very philosophical; emotional; conceptual; overwhelming; inspiring. Pity his buildings don’t do the same thing.

Do we really need to comment on anything about that, both in itself and in its context in Dr. Salingaros’s essay, or would such comment be a mere superfluity, the thing speaking loud and clear for itself?

What’s that? We don’t?

Excellent! And thank you for saving us the onerous task of having to explicate the obvious.

The rest of Dr. Salingaros’s essay consists, for the most part, of his personal impressions of several of Kahn’s buildings (we resist, as an act of charity, making comment on Dr. Salingaros’s interjection of his “index of architectural ‘life’ of famous buildings according to a mathematical model”), and personal impressions ought not be gainsaid so we’ll not even make the attempt. We here would simply call to your attention that Dr. Salingaros’s personal impressions are just that: merely personal impressions, and therefore of no importance, weight, or consequence beyond what they mean for Dr. Salingaros, and speak more loudly of his aesthetic sensibilities than they do of anything having to do with Kahn’s work.

We also feel it incumbent upon us to further call your attention to the fact that Dr. Salingaros uses the terms modernist and modernism some 17 times in his mere 2800-word essay. As we’ve previously pointed out, those terms have an idiosyncratic meaning when used by Dr. Salingaros and his fellow True Believers. To better understand what’s really behind that idiosyncratic meaning, we suggest that when you read Dr. Salingaros’s essay, you replace the term “modernist” by the term “Devil worshipper”, and the term “modernism” by the term “the Devil’s way”.

The essay reads more clearly that way in terms of what’s intended to be conveyed.

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Aesthetic Sanity — Finally

Posted by acdtest on December 7, 2003

Aesthetic Sanity — Finally

ichael Kimmelman, chief art critic for The New York Times, in a piece in today’s Times, gets it right about the competition for the Ground Zero memorial, and gives a proper what-for to the equalitarian simpletons who would champion the idiot notion that the tastes of the common man should be consulted and reflected in aesthetic matters of public moment; an issue previously examined on this weblog.

Writes Mr. Kimmelman:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: now that everyone agrees that the ground zero memorial finalists are a disappointment, there’s only one thing to do.

Throw them all out.

You have the power to do so. Use it. This is in part a memorial to extreme bravery in the face of overwhelming force. Here’s a chance to be brave. We know you still haven’t presented your winning choice, which will no doubt be modified from the plans we now see. But don’t bother. Nothing short of extreme, last-ditch action has a chance of succeeding, because the process has been crucially flawed from the start. Instead of beginning with a firm idea about the meaning of the memorial, we started with a timetable. Instead of guaranteeing that the best artists and architects participated in the process, we pandered to the crowd.

When the finalists were announced, you said the submission of designs by “people from 63 countries and many continents . . . people of different faiths, ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds” reaffirms “our common humanity and is a testament to the solidarity and shared values of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, friends and families from every corner of the world.” And so it does. But this does not bear on the quality of the final design. Does anybody today care that the pope did not hold an open competition for the Sistine ceiling? We should insist on salvaging this most important of public projects, as well as our city and the nation, from a legacy of compromise that leads to banality. Let’s start again – this time, the right way.

Forget vapid populism. Limit the competition to participants of the jury’s expert choosing. Then let the jury select the best plan, if and when there is one. If that’s elitism, so be it.

And amen! to that.

Once a final design for the memorial is chosen in the right way (assuming that happens, that is), the next hurdle will be to prevent any meddling with the design by Larry Silverstein, the Ground Zero site’s developer and leaseholder, who has so far managed to thoroughly trash the architectural integrity of the winning Libeskind overall design for Ground Zero. I suspect (but don’t really know) the specter of Silverstein’s meddling hand has already made really first-rate artists more than a little chary about getting involved with the memorial project even by way of simply making a design submission were they invited to do so.

In any case, kudos for Mr. Kimmmelman, and for the New York Times as well for running the piece.

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Ross Does Disney

Posted by acdtest on November 13, 2003

Ross Does Disney


The New Yorker‘s Alex Ross does Disney Hall.

But the exterior is only the beginning of the wonder of the place. Disney is not simply a piece of prize-worthy architecture; it is also a sensational place to hear music and an enchanting place to spend an evening. In richness of sound, it has few rivals on the international scene, and in terms of visual drama it may have no rival at all. Wherever you sit in the hall, from the front center rows to the high back balcony, the gracefully curving, Spanish-galleon lines of the interior arrange themselves in hypnotic perspectives, and the music seizes you from all sides. The painting-on-a-wall illusion shatters; the orchestra throngs the air.

With each passing day, I’m getting closer and closer to hopping a plane for that hated city.

Posted in Architecture, Music | Comments Off on Ross Does Disney

Piece On Ground Zero

Posted by acdtest on November 8, 2003

Interesting Piece On Ground Zero

ew York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp has an interesting piece on Ground Zero up today. It concerns the draft of new design guidelines for building on the site drawn up by overseeing project architect Daniel Libeskind, the winner of the Ground Zero design competition held by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. last year. Although I’ve not seen the draft of these new design guidelines, and therefore can make no comment concerning them, I’m in wholehearted agreement with Mr. Muschamp when he writes,

Any design guidelines that insist on restrictiveness and homogeneity should be rejected. There is not just one way to respond to 9/11. The exclusion of other architectural visions is an assault on the idea of the city as a place where every voice counts.

Design guidelines in general are problematic for ground zero. Commonly used in suburban residential neighborhoods, they are now most often associated with the followers of the New Urbanism, developers of suburban communities known for their “traditional” period pastiche styles. Plans originally prepared for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation by the New York firms Peterson/Littenberg and Beyer Blinder Belle adhered to this retro design philosophy. That is one reason for which these plans were rejected by the public at town hall meetings held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in July of last year.

Good on Herbert Muschamp! He gets it right again, as he most often does.

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Disney Hall Documentary

Posted by acdtest on November 2, 2003

Disney Hall Documentary

ere’s a first-rate, four-part audio documentary on Disney Hall produced by KCRW of Santa Monica, CA. Part II, From The Inside Out: The Art Of Construction, is particularly fascinating, as are the comments of several LA Philharmonic orchestra members in Parts III and IV. (Requires RealOne Player.)

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Philistine By Any Other Name

Posted by acdtest on October 31, 2003

A Philistine By Any Other Name

‘m in a really pissy mood this afternoon. I point this out mostly by way of apologia for taking even the slightest notice of the mindless bourgeois philistinism below remarked upon, and the modicum of my time required to make remark. But it seems to me that in the rabidly populist and rampantly promiscuous equalitarian era in which we today live, such mindless philistinism needs an occasional skewering if only to attempt to balance the scales a bit.

The virtually unanimous glowing critical and journalistic praise, here and abroad, for architect Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall newly opened in downtown Los Angeles is pretty much unparalleled in our era for an architectural work, Gehry’s own Guggenheim, Bilbao perhaps excepted; a testament to Gehry’s genius, the Disney’s astonishing and profound architectural beauty — beauty plainly manifest even in two-dimensional exterior and interior photographs — and the by all accounts superb acoustics of its performance space. That unanimous praise, however, is seen by at least one proud-as-punch philistine as nothing more than an instance of “mass hysteria,” and “bow[ing] and scrap[ing]” idol and “hero worship.” This sensible-shoes bourgeois, and urban design zealot* takes it upon himself to do his own “analysis” of Disney Hall in a post on his weblog wherein he focuses on critical architectural items such as the “nice pastel color theme” of the signs in the building’s underground parking facility (helps you remember where you parked), the urban design quality of the building’s street frontage (mostly bad because nothing more than a blank wall on three sides), the TV monitors in the building’s snack bar (what could they possibly be showing?), the snack bar location (too deep inside the building), the outdoor lighting (too harsh), and the toilet facilities (not enough).

While all these are undeniably design considerations of some small importance, focusing on them when confronted with a new and important building of such breathtaking architectural accomplishment is a bit like…. Well, let me simply quote myself in a comment which I left in the comments section of the weblog post in question; a comment which was deleted (surprise!) within hours of its being posted.

Your response to the Disney calls to mind nothing so much as an image of someone seeing for the first time a Rembrandt or El Greco, and considering of major importance and worthy of extended comment the frame over which the canvas is stretched, and the fasteners that secure the canvas thereto.

Interesting perspective — and sense of proportion.

And this urban design zealot’s comments on the architecture itself? “[A] goofy, ‘arty,’ ‘post-something’ building”; “a ‘precious object'”; “cold and sterile and with a (largely) bad pedestrian environment”; “gimmickry”; “freaky”; “a freakish series of swooping roofs”; “eye-candy trivia”; “freak-show architecture”; and all this accompanied by multiple sneers at the very idea of genius, which term this bourgeois philistine childishly sees fit to always enclose in scare quotes so that we won’t miss he’s making a statement.

He then closes all this sharp-eyed commentary by writing:

So don’t get me wrong. The Disney is not a complete failure; the failure is in the critics total and complete failure to be able to view the building as anything but a cartoon. The building indeed has got some positive attributes. But it’s basically an example of freak-show architecture and should be considered in that light. I can understand that some people might like freak-shows but I can also recognize that they are not a good model for how humans should evolve. Freaks stand alone and isolated by their unfortunate and tragic nature.

The parallel tragedy of course is that had Gehry paid more attention to the edges, to truly “taking things to the edge,” he and Los Angeles could have had a comfortable urban building and a glamorous precious object. There is, to my mind, no inherent contradiction. The Disney could have been a truly great urban building had Gehry followed the Three Rules [this weblogger’s simplistic formula for good urban building design].

That this guy is at polar odds with all the architecture experts would be just dandy, and absolutely OK if he had even the vaguest idea, the most rudimentary sensibility, the most fundamental knowledge of what architecture is about; critical prerequisites he appallingly lacks (appalling because of his area of putative expertise) as his repeated purblind and ignorant whining on his weblog about what he considers the general horribleness of the great architecture of the past century makes manifest, as do his purblind and ignorant whining complaints against the knowledgeable commentary of genuine architecture experts (he has an especial hatred for New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp; but, then, what bourgeois philistine doesn’t), which commentary is clearly beyond this weblogger’s woefully limited architectural understanding.

Is such ignorant and public purblind whining a triumph of democracy, democratic thinking, and the democratic process, or something else altogether?

You decide. I’ve said quite enough, and quite sufficient. In any case, it’s all the time and words I’m here willing to devote to the matter.

By the way, did I mention I was in a really pissy mood this afternoon?

Oh. So I did.

*Name withheld as an act of charity.

Posted in Architecture, Cultural Commentary | Comments Off on Philistine By Any Other Name

Tommasini Does Disney

Posted by acdtest on October 25, 2003

Tommasini Does Disney

ew York Times music “critic” Anthony Tommasini gives his acoustical impression of Disney Hall.

Said Tommasini, in part:

Still, the fullness of sound in a concert hall comes not just from the proximity of the musicians or from sheer volume, but from richness and resonance. The grand old halls, like Boston’s Symphony Hall and of course Carnegie Hall, positively shimmer with aural richness. During the Mozart, the sound at Disney Hall, especially the string sound, lacked warmth and bloom. The overall effect was full-bodied and clear but in a modern, somewhat clinical way.

What’s wrong with this picture?


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Beyond Mere Building

Posted by acdtest on October 24, 2003

Beyond Mere Building

o reader of this weblog could possibly even begin to imagine the depth of my hatred of Los Angeles. But after crawling over thousands of words and hundreds of photographs detailing Disney Hall, exterior and interior, I’m ready to jump a flight for the Left Coast, and spend the next year camping out there.

Jesus!, what a profoundly beautiful building it looks to be (if mere building it can be called). If Disney Hall in the flesh lives up to the promise of the photographs (and my experienced eye tells me it almost certainly will), then all by itself it’s enough to resurrect to full bloom a years-dead faith in postmodern man’s creative and aesthetic capacity to produce genuinely great and enduring works of art. Now all that’s needed is the appearance of a Frank Gehry in the realms of music and literature, and we’ll all be home free.

UPDATE (25 October at 10:48 PM Eastern): Another philistine (and proud of it!) is heard from; one who clearly has not a clue as to what beautiful means when applied to a work of architecture.

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Boffo Début

Posted by acdtest on October 24, 2003

Boffo Début

ast night’s concert marked the official opening of Los Angeles’s major new classical music concert venue, Disney Hall, designed by the incomparable architect of our era, Frank Gehry. And the reviews are ecstatic.

Said one writer:

[If the expectations are] that a spectacular venue with vivid acoustics can make the experience of music so immediate that sound seems to enter a listener’s body not through just the ears but through the eyes, through every pore in the skin, then…Disney Hall is everything and more than we might have hoped for. In this enchanted space, music can take on meaningful new excitement even in an age when many art forms are satisfied with oversaturated stimulation.

Said another:

[T]he hall is the most significant work ever created by a Los Angeles architect in his native city. The hall’s flamboyant undulating exterior – whose stainless steel forms unfold along downtown’s Grand Avenue with exquisite lightness – is a sublime expression of contemporary cultural values. Its intimate, womb-like interior should instantly be included among the great public rooms in America. […] Disney Hall’s power…stems from its ability to gather the energy of [the] swarming [downtown Los Angles] landscape and imbue it with new meaning. In this way, it should be ranked among America’s most significant architectural achievements.

Words like those (and there are more — much more –such words here, here, and here) will, I suspect, resonate most particularly with the bungling crew who constitute the board of NYC’s Lincoln Center who have for the past few years busied themselves with the what-to-do-with-it Lincoln Center question. If it hasn’t been clear up to now that what to do with it is trash it in toto, and try again, this time with more foresight, understanding, and aesthetic intelligence, then Disney Hall will make it blindingly clear to even the most densely opaque of the board’s — and the city’s — bourgeois movers and shakers.

Los Angles (LOS ANGELES!) the possessor of the greatest classical music concert venue in the entire country, perhaps even the world(!)?

Can you imagine? Can you bloody imagine?

INSTANT UPDATE (24 October at 9:07 AM Eastern): And speaking of the densely opaque, here’s a proles’ view of Disney Hall that’s simply breathtaking in its philistine mindlessness.

Posted in Aesthetic Commentary, Architecture, Cultural Commentary, Music | Comments Off on Boffo Début