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Monuments: Disney Concert Hall and Paris Opera House

Two of the most exquisitely designed music halls in the world can be found in Los, Angeles, California and Paris, France. The Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier) have rich musical histories that serve as an inspiration for the establishment of other musical avenues. Nonetheless, the two music houses are recognized as a venue of world-class musical performances. Together with their rich history and extravagant architectural design, Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Paris Opera House are grand landmark masterpieces that are truly venerating to observe.

Background Conveniently situated at downtown Los Angeles, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the fruition of a plan by Lilian B. Disney to develop a world-class concert hall during 1987. The widow of Walt Disney shelled out $50 million for the said music center to be established. The county of Los Angeles provided the land where the concert hall will be developed as well as additional funding for the hall’s parking garage. In 1988, renowned architect Frank Ghery was commissioned to spearhead the project and his design was made known to public in 1991.

A year after, the construction of the parking garage began. However, it was until 1996 that the six-level parking garage was finished. The actual concert hall’s construction started in 1999, and it was in October 20, 2003 that Walt Disney Concert Hall was officially opened to the public. The said facade is the official performance area of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and it also serves as an avenue for events such as concerts, show tapings, and occasional charity event.

Hence, the concert hall is truly the legacy of Lilian B. Disney who is an advocate of arts (“Walt Disney Concert Hall”). Los, Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall took 16 years to be completed (“Walt Disney Concert Hall”), while Paris, France’s Palais Garnier took 14 years to be officially inaugurated. As Walt Disney Concert Hall is established in accordance to the Disney family’s desire to launch a world-class concert hall, such thing is similar to the Paris Opera House in addition to the prestige it brought to Napoleon.

However, unlike the Disney Concert Hall which is established as an addition to the downtown area of Los Angeles, Paris Opera House is an incentive by Napoleon in order to reconstruct the old Paris Opera which is known as the Theatre de l’Academie Royale de Musique that was destroyed by a fire in 1763 (“Paris Opera”). Considered as one of the greatest historical houses in Europe, Palais Garnier, more commonly known as the Opera de Paris or Paris Opera, has a history that stretches back from the time of Napoleon III.

According to literature, Napoleon is an advocate of spectacular performances as a means of supporting his ambitions that paved way for the rise of the French tradition of the Grand Opera. On December 29, 1860, he opened a competition for the new Grand Opera house (Laiyuzeng). While Disney chose a well-known architect to design the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the identity of Frank Ghery, Napoleon, after a unanimous decision with his colleagues, chose a lesser known architect named Charles Garnier (“Paris Opera”). The construction of Garnier’s project began in 1861. Yet, unexpected construction difficulties arose during the process.

A water table or swampy ground was discovered in the location during an excavation. The said discovery slowed down the construction as the water needed to be drained first before enormous concrete and foundations can be put up in order to equalize the pressure due to the water table. Subsequent setbacks during the construction were brought about by the Franco-Prussian Wars, the fall of the second French empire, as well as the Paris commune. Because of the said events, the construction of the opera house continued sporadically, which greatly explains why it took 14 years before the monument was finished (Laiyuzeng).

Meanwhile, Walt Disney Concert Hall had its own share of difficulties as well. While Paris Opera’s difficulties were attributed to both natural and man-made issues, Walt Disney Hall’s long construction history was associated with financial issues. Before the year 1874 ended, Garnier and his workforce completed Palais Garnier. It was formally opened on the 15th of January 1875. Since then, Paris Opera House was restored and preserved. However, since the new Place de la Bastille was opened, Palais the Garnier is only used for performances by visiting companies and ballet performers.

It has also become more of a tourist attraction today (“Paris-Opera House”). Architectural Design and Materials Walt Disney Concert Hall and Paris Opera House have contrasting architectural designs. The first is distinguished as a representation of modernity that is perceived to be a move away from the limitations and designs of traditional architecture (Pile 439), while the latter is a masterpiece in the Beaux-Art style, which is known as a classical form of architecture that was dominant both in France and America during the 19th and early part of the 20th century (“Paris Opera”).

Palais Garnier is situated at 11,000 square meters of land and has the sitting capacity of approximately 2,200 audiences (“Palais Garnier”), while Walt Disney Concert Hall stands in 27,000 square meter land and can accommodate 2,265 seats (Christy). Exterior The outside facade of Walt Disney Concert Hall is a break away from the conventional design of buildings. Ghery’s masterpiece comprises complex curving forms that are clad in stainless steel, making it a stand-out among the other structures within its area.

Because of the usage of such material (stainless steel), the whole structure is said to shine in the Sothern Californian sun, and it quickly reflects light to its neighboring buildings along with the shadows that it casts. The concert hall’s exterior design is metaphorically interpreted as a blooming flower or a sailing ship (Christy). Meanwhile, in contrast to the plain yet complex curved forms of Disney Concert Hall’s stainless steel exterior, Paris Opera House stuck with the opulent design of the Beaux-Art style.

The exterior of the facade with its distinctive shape and roof is made up of arches, columns, and multi-colored marble friezes. The vestibules as well as the reception areas in the front are housed in rectangular block, and behind it is the auditorium that has a green copper dome. Two rotundas, which initially served as the entry ways for the elites, can be found on the sides of the building (Hanser 172). Interior The complex curve forms in the exterior of Gehry’s work extend within its interiors, yet the said curves add up to the space of the area.

The main entrance of Gehry’s masterpiece features expanses of glass, oval courtyard, a grand staircase, as well as varying Atria space (Christy). Contrastingly, the exterior opulence of Garnier’s work is doubled within its interiors. He decorated it with lavish statuary, glorifying the gods and goddesses from Greek mythology. Likewise, the popular grand staircase is made up of marble and onyx, which represents worldly events, while the main lobby is intricately designed with mosaics (Hanser 77).

From here, one can easily point out that Gehry’s design is centered on “less is more,” while Garnier is fond of extravagant designs in order to fit the elitist taste (Christy). According to Frank Gehry, the focus of his interior design for Walt Disney Concert Hall’s, most especially that in the auditorium, is to create a synergy between the audience and the performers through intimacy and inclusion. As such, although rectangular in form, a visitor would not realize he or she is already sitting in an auditorium made of Douglas fir and cedar.

The audience surrounds the stage, which is slightly elevated compared to the orchestra seats adjacent to it, while the “swooping concave walls” are made of staggered wood panels that also hold the seats in the terrace (Christy). Due to this intricate design, the hall appears much smaller and cozier even if its seating capacity indicates otherwise, making the space much more intimate. What adds to the intimacy of the room is the billowing wood ceiling that is placed in a light reflecting space.

The use of warm wood and molded forms creates the vibrancy of sound, which can make the audience feel as if they are inside a living creature. IN addition, Gehry and his team turned away from the usual concert hall elitism. They did not provide boxes, but each location that an audience intends to choose is unique acoustically and visually (Christy). While the term intimate would best describe the auditorium of Disney Concert Hall, “grandiosity” would fit the auditorium of Palais Garnier.

The auditorium is designed with red velvet, gold leaf, and plaster cherubs. However, unlike that of Disney’s Concert Hall where the audience surrounds the performers, in Palais Garnier’s auditorium, the stage is upfront, totally separating the audience from the performers. In addition, as Gehry did not include private boxes in order to avoid elitism, Ganier created sweeps of open balconies in a horizontal manner so as to make the audience as the center of attraction until the attention is turned to the performers when the performance begin.

While there is no bad seat in the auditorium of Disney Concert Hall, Palais Garnier’s auditorium has nearly 200 seats that have no views. Likewise, a rear section in the group of seats is possible to be curtained off as this was a requirement during the second empire (Hanser 177). It is evident that both the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Paris Opera House are the avenues of great music since their inception. Both are known for their purpose of providing entertainment to individuals, and they have also been acknowledged as two of the world’s greatest facades in the field of architectural design.

Although the said structures vary greatly from each another, it is still evident that these are two monuments struck the interest of many worldwide. In this respect, Walt Disney Concert Hall and Paris Opera House are truly a must-see for anyone. Works Cited Christy, Leigh. “Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall. ” Architecture Week. 17 Dec. 2003. 22 Apr. 2009. <http://www. architectureweek. com/2003/1217/design_1-1. html>. Hanser, David A. Architecture of France: Reference Guides to National Architecture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. Laiyuzeng.

“The Paris Opera House. ” Word Press. 28 June 2007. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://laiyuzeng. wordpress. com/2007/06/28/the-paris-opera-house/>. “Paris Opera. ” Answers. 2009. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://www. answers. com/topic/palais- garnier>. “Paris- Opera House. ” Planet Ware. 2009. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://www. planetware. com/paris/opera-house-f-p-op. htm>. Pile, Laurence King. A History of Interior Design. 2nd ed. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2005. “Walt Disney Concert Hall. ” US History. 2009. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://www. u-s- history. com/pages/h3088. html>.

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