Gehry warns new subway spells "disaster"
for Walt Disney Concert Hall


Frank Gehry Disney Hall, photo by Kansas Sebastian

News: architect Frank Gehry has warned that performances at his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles could be ruined by the noise of a subway line planned nearby.

The new Metro line below the parking garage of the venue, which is one of the architect's best-known buildings, is expected to open in 2020.

"It would be a disaster for Disney Hall," Gehry told the Los Angeles Times, after it was revealed that the rumbling of trains would be audible from inside the hall.

In an acoustic experiment conducted in April, subwoofers simulating the sound of a passing train could be heard in the auditorium.

"The test was several minutes long," said Fred Vogler, a recording engineer who oversees concert-taping for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. "Then they said, 'Is anybody troubled by the train sounds?' We said, 'Well, we heard them, if that's what you're asking.' It set off a lot of concerns."

Tests of subway noise carried out nearly two years ago by Metro's noise abatement consultants had led them to predict there would be no audible impact on Disney Hall, but Gehry has now called for this decision to be reviewed.

"The flag is up, and we should go over it and make sure," he said.

However, Art Leahy, Metro's chief executive, reassured concerned parties that nothing that might damage the hall would be approved to be built.

"We are not about to do anything which in any fashion, however slightly, impairs or damages … Disney Hall or any other feature in that area," he said.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was completed by Gehry in 2003 and designed to be one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world.

Earlier this year a US congressman launched an attempt to scrap Gehry's proposed Washington D.C. memorial for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, citing its cost and controversial design.

Gehry is currently also working on the new headquarters for internet giant Facebook – see all architecture by Gehry.

  • mcmlxix

    Beverly Hills is blocking the Purple line because they say it threatens their high schoolers, as if subways don’t run under schools worldwide without trauma. Now this by Gehry. Has he even ridden the LA Metro? If he had, he’d notice how DEEP the stations and trains are. How are his tests beter than Metro’s?

  • Arby

    God forbid any inconveniences from new structures…

  • How can the subway be making the acoustics worse? The concert hall features seats that face each other. It’s one of the poorest designed concert halls in America. Why does everyone ignore this massive design flaw?

    • Momster

      Have you been there? I go there for concerts on a regular basis. The acoustics are superb. Yes, a few seats face each other across the hall, but that doesn’t interfere with the acoustics whatsoever. You can hear a pin drop during soft volumes during performances of the Los Angeles Master Chorale OR focus on one particular singer and hear their voice clearly standing out of the other 100+ voices. It’s an amazing experience. It would be a disaster to put a train under the building!

      • Last time I went was this month. I go because a friend offers free tickets.

        Hearing a pin drop is not the same as having good acoustics. The bass notes from the timpani are shallow. The strings and flutes can sound too bright, and harsh.

        Sitting on all sides of an orchestra is a poor arrangement for constant, quality sound. The hollow spaces between the wood panelling and the outside walls are lined in glass and concrete. It doesn’t give strong enough reverberation for sustaining the soft, low subtle notes.

        Is it loud? Sure. Can you hear the rustling of paper on the stands? Yes. Do people sitting on the sides have to sit so craned (the seats should be turned) that they miss any stereophonic quality of the arrangements. The wood gives the tones a warm sound. The quality is lacking.

        It really is a horribly designed space that ignores centuries of brilliant concert hall design.