Anybody like to share your experience with this new concert hall, good or bad?


Los Angeles Daily News

Disney venue reflects badly on downtown

By Troy Anderson
Staff Writer

Friday, November 26, 2004 - The world-famous Walt Disney Concert Hall -- crown jewel of downtown Los Angeles' revival -- must lose some of the luster from its polished stainless-steel exterior before somebody goes blind, according to a new report.

The brilliant rays blind drivers, pedestrians and nearby residents, and create sauna-like conditions in condominiums and businesses. Temperatures on the sidewalks surrounding the hall have been measured at up to 138 degrees.

"It does get really, really warm in the summer," Susan Yokoyama, co-owner of the Video Action store at the Promenade Plaza across the street from the hall, said Friday. "It's like a heater. It's like sitting in a sauna. It can also be quite blinding."

Although no traffic crashes are known to have been caused by the beams of sunlight shooting off the hall, a consultant who examined the problem said there are times when the light can create dangerous conditions and interfere with a clear view of traffic and pedestrians.

"Surprisingly, the early morning (reflection) is the most distracting," said Marc Schiler, head of the consulting firm and a professor at the University of Southern California School of Architecture. "Later in the day, the levels are higher, but the distribution is more even."

The supervisors are expected to decide in January whether to sandblast the stainless steel to a dull sheen.

In a report to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors released late Wednesday, county Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen said problems started even before the hall was dedicated in October 2003.

In June 2003, the homeowners association of the Promenade condominiums complained that the reflection of sunlight off the hall's Founders Room caused uncomfortable glare and temperature increases inside the units on the southeast side of the complex at the corner of First and Hope streets.

In July 2003, the county hired Sapphos Environmental, Inc., and its subconsultant -- building-lighting experts Schiler and Associates -- to work in cooperation with the hall's renowned architect, Frank O. Gehry, to identify solutions to reduce the glare from the polished stainless-steel exterior surfaces of the Founder's Room and the CalArts Theater Marquee.

"Gehry provided us information and computer models that we used," Schiler said. "So Gehry will retain the aesthetic initiative in responding to the problems.

"We have told (the county) what panels should be dealt with and we've evaluated different possibilities. And (Gehry) will make the decision on which possibilities to use, based not only on the physical analysis, but on his aesthetics."

Gehry did not return calls for comment Friday.

Another Gehry masterpiece, the Guggenheim art museum in Bilbao, Spain, was completed in 1997 with a titanium exterior that became tarnished by dark stains only three years later.

The museum, in the Basque city on the northern coast of Spain, has an exterior constructed of giant, curved surfaces.

As an interim solution for Disney Hall, a gray mesh fabric was placed over one swooping and curved tower across the street from the Promenade.

In addition to the glare reflected to the Promenade, Pasadena-based Schiler and Associates analyzed the glare at the four intersections nearest the hall to determine the presence of reflections that could affect drivers and pedestrians.

The study concluded that a larger area than identified in the initial assessment was producing troublesome glare and recommended increasing the amount of mesh on the polished panels as an interim solution. The additional mesh coverings will be applied soon, Janssen said.

"We recommended that it be expanded slightly," Schiler said. "We are trying to have as little aesthetic impact as possible and still take care of the problem."

The glare problem has to do with the mirror-like steel on the Founders Room, which reflects sunlight more brightly than the structure's other parts, which feature duller, brushed steel.

The permanent solution, which the supervisors will consider in January, involves sandblasting selected surfaces of the Founder's Room and CalArts Theater Marquee to create a finish more like the main concert hall.

If approved by the supervisors, the sandblasting is expected to be completed by June. Although the report did not provide an estimate of the cost, the county is responsible for the maintenance of the hall.

In the study, Schiler wrote that the hall sparkles in the sun and changes with every different angle of view.

"The very sparkle that excites the viewer also presents some difficulties," Schiler wrote.

"As Jim Hahn, mayor of Los Angeles, said during the dedication ceremony: 'This building has a UV factor of 100.' He was referring to its brightness on the world stage but also to its physical effects on those in its proximity."

Visual and photographic surveys of the concert hall found the "hot spots" and reflections varied significantly throughout the day, often in an unexpected manner.

Schiler noted that many buildings increase the temperatures of surrounding surfaces -- the so-called "heat island" effect. But he said Disney Hall is unusual and its impact is greater because of its highly reflective qualities and especially since some of the mirror-like surfaces are curved.

"There are portions of the building that are especially reflective ... and in some cases concentrate significant amounts of light."

Yokoyama, the store owner across the street, said it seems appropriate for changes to be approved by Gehry, the architect of the landmark.

"I can see them sandblasting -- maybe if it's OK with the architect, because it's very beautiful. If it's done tastefully, it might add to the aesthetics and take care of the situation. But it's up to the architect to do something tastefully."

"If it's creating accidents, it sounds like they have to do something," said San Diego resident Robert Aravjo, 33, a real estate broker who was attending a concert at the hall Friday.

Reno, Nev., resident Marlean Bowling, a 33-year-old museum education curator who was sightseeing downtown Friday, said she works at a museum that built a structure in Reno after spending a year studying the effect sunlight would have on it from different angles.

"I think (Gehry) should have looked at the patterns of light throughout the day before he built this," Bowling said.

Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985