Iconic Music Halls Connect Berlin and L.A. at Getty


An exhibit that opened this week at the Getty Center in Los Angeles illustrates one thing that connects sister cities Berlin and Los Angeles: Their iconic music halls. The exhibit, timed with the 50th anniversary of the partnership between the two metropolises, explores concert venues by Hans Scharoun and Frank Gehry that are highlights in their city skylines.

“Berlin and Los Angeles: Space for Music“ at the Getty Research Institute (GRI) facility focuses on the Berlin Philharmonie, designed by Scharoun, which influenced the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Gehry. In addition to those two buildings that epitomize their cities, the exhibit takes a look at a venue that opened this March in Berlin that Gehry worked on that brings the concept and the lessons incorporated by both full circle: the Pierre Boulez Saal.

The Berlin Philharmonie and Disney Hall are signature features of their areas. The exhibition draws from the GRI’s archival Gehry holdings and incorporates material on Scharoun from Berlin’s Academy of the Arts. The exhibit looks at the buildings’ unusual interiors as well as exteriors. It includes original drawings, photos, sketches, and models that show each architect’s design process.

“A concert hall is a unique building. It is a space for music, a space for cultural activity and prominent civic landmark. Like Hans Scharoun before him, Frank Gehry is a master of the form and has created many of the world’s most iconic buildings, including our own beloved Walt Disney Concert Hall,” noted GRI director Thomas W. Gaehtgens.

Perspectives and Influences

“The parallels of Frank Gehry and Hans Scharoun’s work, especially in these two buildings, go beyond style and function,” added Maristella Casciato, who co-curated the exhibition. She noted that two architects present a deep understanding and appreciation for their buildings’ place both in landscape and in culture.

GettyActive in Germany’s avant-garde in the early 1900s, Scharoun (1893–1972) was part a group who promoted modern architecture in his country. He oversaw the initial urban plans for Berlin after World War II. However, they were never implemented before Berlin was divided in 1948.

Later, Scharoun’s concert hall was constructed (built 1960-1963) on the south edge of the Tiergarten and adjacent to the Berlin Wall. It replaced the city’s previous venue which was destroyed in the war. The main hall is broken into 16 “egg shell” like pieces. This avoids the military rigidity of traditional rows of seats, sending a cultural message.

Following suit, Gehry’s concert hall in L.A. (built 1999–2003) also incorporates a complex array of oddly shaped seating sections. The concept reflects the city as a melting pot of cultures. Raised in Toronto, Gehry (b. 1929) has lived in L.A. for 70 years. He developed many projects in his adopted hometown besides Disney Hall. Gehry is also known for eye-catching sites, including the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Coming Full Circle

Much like the Berlin Philharmonie influenced Disney Hall, Gehry’s latest venue – Pierre Boulez Saal – incorporates ideas from those facilities. The Getty exhibition includes a model and photos of Pierre Boulez Saal, a Berlin concert hall which just opened. Built into a 1955 building, Gehry focus his attention on the performance space. As he noted at the Getty exhibit opening, “This is not an exterior concert hall like the Philharmonie or the Disney Hall.”

GettyIt features two elliptical formations set above one another to create a sense of weightlessness from the upper tier. The modular space will be reconfigured based on the show and artist’s requirements.

The exhibition highlighting the iconic music halls that connect sister cities Berlin and L.A. will be at the Getty until July 30. Later this year, an expanded version will open in Berlin. It will be situated near another Gehry work, the Deutsche Bank offices near the Brandenburg Gate.

By Dyanne Weiss

Exhibition preview April 24
Getty: Getty Research Institute Presents Berlin/Los Angeles: Space For Music
Pierre Boulez Saal: Press Room

Photo of Frank Gehry overlooking Pierre Boulez Saal interior © Thomas Rosenthal, courtesy Pierre Boulez Saal
Photo of Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles by Pedro Szekely, courtesy Creative Commons license
Photo of Frank Gehry (front) and Thomas W. Gaehtgens pointing out attendees at Disney Hall opening concert by Dyanne Weiss