The Walt Disney Concert Hall 57
  • 友善列印版本


    By Senior Manager (Cost & Controls) Eugene Chang


    If the Guggenheim Bilbao made Frank O. Gehry one of the most famous architects in the world, the Walt Disney Concert Hall could have ended his career.


    In 1987, Liliian Disney, Walt's widow, donated US$50 million to the city of Los Angeles to establish a concert hall in honor of her late husband. Frank Gehry's proposal with its stand-out swooping facade and a concert hall surrounded by a series of open gardens, beat the more famous Gottfried Böhm, Hans Hollein, and James Sterling at the time. It was Gehry's first huge commission in Los Angeles, a city where he has resided since 1947 and from which he had launched his architecture career.


    Yet by 1994, the project was completely shut down. Originally scheduled to open in 1993, a combination of fund-raising difficulties, an underestimated budget, misunderstandings about the design, and misrepresentation of construction difficulties, among other problems, had stalled the project. The construction of the building had been delayed because the construction bids had been much higher than anticipated. The basement alone, which began construction in 1992 and didn't complete until 1996, cost US$110 million, more than the overall building budget itself. The original US$50 million donation, thought to be half of the total building cost, was projected to be less than a fourth of it.


    With the building projected to be 400% over budget, Gehry was facing his "Jøhn Utzon moment". Jøhn Utzon was the architect who designed one of the world's most recognized landmarks – the Sydney Opera House. With the project considered unbuildable at first, it was completed in 1972 with a price tag of AUD 102 million, 1600% more than the original estimate. Jørn Utzon resigned from the job before its completion after the city government ceased the construction and withheld his salary. He never returned to Australia and never designed another significant building (today the Sydney Opera House is estimated to contribute more than AUD 1 billion to the country's economy).


    It was 1992 when Frank Gehry was commissioned to design the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain. The design of Guggenheim Bilbao closely resembled the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Both featured eccentric façades, torqued and sensually curving pillars, and twisting and rippling interior spaces. In this project, Gehry had tried something different to tackle the issue of cost and construction. With the aid of French aerospace computer software, CATIA, Gehry's office mastered the process of producing detailed drawings of their design for the builders (now their office runs its own iteration of CATIA–Digital Project). Using the software, they were able to collaborate closely with the builders of the individual elements on every step of the project to avoid misrepresentation of the design intent.


    As a result, the project was completed on time and US$3 million under the US$100 million budget. The project anchored the revitalization of a once industrial city into a world tourist destination and put Bilbao on the world map. The success of the Guggenheim Bilbo spurred the Los Angeles city government to resume the construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. However, Gehry's design was preserved only by the Disney family stepping in and demanding that Gehry stay on and finish the building. In 2003, the US$274 million Walt Disney Concert Hall was finally opened to public.




    Share articles