1993 P/A Award
One of the world's most admired concert halls starred on the cover of a P/A Awards issue a full decade before its first concert. Launched in 1987 with a $50-million gift from the widow of Hollywood entertainment icon Walt Disney, the Los Angeles cultural project languished for several years while requisite funds, totaling $274 million, were raised.
The award-winning design depicted Frank Gehry, FAIA's precedent-shattering complex in substantially final form. The one salient difference is that its sinuous exterior curves were intended to be clad in limestone, shaped under computer control in the myriad required configurations. As budgets tightened, the cladding was changed to the stainless steel that now seems integral to the hall's identity.
The published jury commentary on the project revealed doubts voiced by some jurors. They questioned the (deliberate) formal discrepancy between the box-like volume that contains the hall itself and the fluid configurations of lobby spaces and exterior forms. But in the end the jury supported Julie Eizenberg's assertion: "I don't think the design fumbles for a minute."
While the concert hall was suffering delays, Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao—which was designed about the same time—was completed in 1997, six years before Disney. As architecture critic Blair Kamin wrote in the Chicago Tribune, it was easy for the completed Disney to be perceived as "Bilbao: the Sequel." But Kamin clarified the chronology and was even moved to call the completed hall "a musical ark with silver sails that dance in the bright blue California sky." —John Morris Dixon, FAIA
1993 P/A Awards Jury
Thomas Beeby, FAIA
Alan H. Colquhoun
Julie Eizenberg, FAIA
John Kaliski, AIA
Ada Karmi Melamede
Alan Ward, FASLA
See a full set of images in ARCHITECT's Esto Gallery for the Walt Disney Concert Hall.