I dedicate this next series of articles to my wonderful friend, Colleen, who coordinated a fantastic day of exploration. The walking tour she hosted in December for me and some my girlfriends inspired these upcoming posts. There is so much to see and do that I could not capture it all in one easy piece.
Downtown Los Angeles can be an intimidating place to navigate. The maze of one-way streets, the towering offices, and the busy traffic can mean some confusion for the novice. To make matters worse, there always seems to be construction. Thus, every time you go, there is a very good chance that it will look a little different. This next series of articles will highlight great spots to see and where they are specifically located. Let’s start with The Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue. The entrance is located on the corner of Grand Avenue and 1st Street. Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the concert hall is a piece of artwork unto itself. A variety of large, curved stainless steel panels adorn the exterior of this structure. It looks like the building could echo sounds from space, but more logically, it reflects light from several angles. Most of the stainless steel panels were given a matte finish, but when the concert hall opened in 2003, some of the panels were left polished. The polished areas reflected sunlight so strongly that they over-heated nearby buildings and the sidewalk below. The remaining panels had to be sanded to reduce the harsh glare.
Much like the exterior panels, the main auditorium is designed to reflect sound with a series of carefully placed wood panels. These wood panels were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota and they make performances resound beautifully to every ticket holder. In fact, the acoustics are so clear that even noises created by the audience are amplified during the show. Thus, visitors are asked to be mindful of potential disruptions. As for viewing the performances, the seats are designed in a “vineyard” configuration which means that there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the L.A. Philharmonic as well as the L.A. Master Chorale. If you are new to classical music or are unfamiliar with the performance you are about to see, get to the concert hall an hour early for the free educational overview called Upbeat Live. Before most performances, this discussion is held in BP Hall and it will explain the upcoming performance in the context of both history and culture.
Tiny concert goers must be at least six years of age to enjoy performances in the main auditorium. There are; however, sing-along performances that allow for younger audiences. Sing-alongs and drum circles are often performed at the W.M. Keck Foundation Children’s Amphitheatre located on the rooftop of the concert hall. Alongside 2nd Street, this outdoor venue boasts 350 vertically tiered seats.
Immediately adjacent to the children’s theatre is the Blue Ribbon Garden. This rooftop garden is a lovely and oddly peaceful place to unwind amidst the busy city. Frank Gehry designed a fountain in the garden as a tribute to Lillian Disney. The fountain is comprised of Royal Delft porcelain vases – a favorite of Lillian’s – cut and pieced into a beautiful floral mosaic. The garden has plenty of overhead foliage which easily help you forget that you are in an urban landscape. It is not unusual to find downtown businessmen and women unwinding here on their lunch breaks. Speaking of lunch, the concert hall offers two meal options: Patina for fine dining with French cuisine and the Concert Hall Café for quick sandwiches and salads in a marketplace atmosphere.
Parking is cash only and located off of 2nd Street (below the outdoor garden and children’s theatre). Expect to pay $20 upfront with an $11 refund after validation. The concert hall also offers valet parking off of Hope Street. This will cost $23. Tickets range from $20 to roughly $200, depending upon the performance and the day of the week. You can always call or go to the box office to ask for “hot tix” which are discounted tickets in the range of $25. Hot tix are available 3 weeks prior to the opening performance and can also be purchased the day of the performance. The location of your seat, of course, varies.
There is no specific dress code for the concert hall, although shirts and shoes are, of course, required. Most concert-goers wear business casual and I recommend this as your safe bet. Some patrons opt for formal wear, but that is purely a matter of personal taste.
Now if classical music isn’t your thing and you are looking for something with an edge, check out the REDCAT underneath the concert hall. Located at 631 West 2nd Street, the REDCAT is your destination for a wide variety of contemporary art. The name stands for Roy and Edna Disney / CalArts Theater. CalArts, or The California Institute of the Arts, was first dreamed up by Walt himself and is now a competitive campus where one can be educated in a variety of creative disciplines. Much like the institute, REDCAT is a venue where contemporary art – both performance and media – can be experienced. A major theme is experimentation and one friend of mine called her last visit “wild”. So it is no surprise that the theater is often considered avant-garde. REDCAT includes a performance/screening space, a gallery, and a lounge. Admission is free to the gallery as well as the lounge. The lounge includes a book store, a bar, and mingling artists (especially after performances). General admission to the theater varies from about $10 to $50. The entrance to the theater is near the corner of 2nd Street and Hope. You will utilize the same parking structure as for the concert hall.
As you can see, The Walt Disney Concert Hall is an innovative place to visit in Downtown Los Angeles. You can take in a classical performance, tour a contemporary art gallery, marvel at the Gehry architecture, or merely find the perfect spot to eat your lunch. Whatever your pleasure, there is much to see in this singular city block. I also love the fact that you can go there and experience many great elements of the concert hall without even purchasing a ticket. It just might be time for you to wander around this cool Disney site.
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