Space For Music: A Celebration Of Two Iconic Buildings

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the sister-city partnership between Los Angeles and Berlin. The Getty Research Institute is celebrating the relationship with an exhibition titled Berlin/Los Angeles: Space For Music. The exhibit explores two iconic pieces of architecture: Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Ghery and the Berlin Philharmonic by Hans Scharoun.

I’m excited to announce that Space For Music includes two of my photographs of Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s truly an honor to see my work displayed among original sketches, drawings, prints and scale models from Scharoun and Ghery. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Maristella Casciato, the Senior Curator of Architectural Collections for The Getty. Aside from incorporating my work into the exhibit, she gave me a personal tour and a background of Hans Scharoun’s work.

The exhibit gives incredible insight into the creative process of the two renowned architects. What struck me the most was Frank Ghery’s sketches. The lines were wild and organic, much like the final built product. Another unique segment of the exhibit was the incorporation of recorded music. There are two separate speakers in opposite corners of the gallery, with each one playing the compositions that were performed on opening night of each venue.

Having seen many performances at Walt Disney Concert hall, and photographing it countless times, I could not think of a better exhibit to be a part of. It is truly an icon of Los Angeles, and a pioneer of bringing arts and culture to DTLA.

Berlin/Los Angeles: Space For Music Hunter Kerhart

Berlin/Los Angeles: Space For Music The Getty Hunter Kerhart

Berlin Philharmonic and Walt Disney Concert Hall

It wasn’t until last year, when the exhibit was first being formed, that I knew of the Berlin Philharmonic. Built from 1960-1963, the postwar modernist design was revolutionary for a music hall. Scharoun had first developed sketches of futuristic and ideal cities in the ’20s and ’30s, in which architecture solved the afflictions of industrialized society. It was nearly three decades later when Scharoun designed the Berlin Philharmonic in the likes of a terraced vineyard. The orchestra is situated in the center of the hall, or “valley”, surrounded by audience seats as though they were surrounding hillsides. The transfiguration of the traditional theater-style seating was meant to break the aristocratic conditions of attending musical performances.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was completed in 2003, embodies Frank Ghery’s flare for the dramatic. While it may have a much more monumental exterior than its German counterpart, it is clear that Ghery drew inspiration from the Berlin Philharmonic interior. The hall expands upon Scharoun’s curvilinear 360-degree layout, and is enveloped in warm wood tones and colorful seats. Ghery collaborated with Yasuhisa Toyota to create an acoustical masterpiece. It is a spectacular adaptation of the “vineyard” design, and I can assure you there is no such thing as a “bad” seat in the house.

Both buildings are acclaimed for their architectural design, but it is clear that each one serves a bigger purpose than ornamenting the landscape of their cities. Through their architecture, they have each created a cultural center that brings the community together for something that can be celebrated and enjoyed despite any diversity: music. It is best put by the Getty’s exhibit overview, “In both Disney Hall and the Berlin Philharmonic, the welcoming, nonhierarchical spatial arrangements place the emphasis on music and the appreciation of music as an egalitarian enterprise, challenging the notion that orchestral music is within the purview of only the elite.”

Although the exhibit focuses solely on the relationship by comparison of two music halls, LA and Berlin share many similarities. Emily Pugh and Marissa Clifford, who were both involved with the exhibit, co-wrote an in-depth article that explores the historical commonalities between the cities. It’s a quick, great read that also shares some cool historic photos.

Berlin/Los Angeles: Space For Music The Getty Hunter Kerhart

Berlin/Los Angeles: Space For Music The Getty Hunter Kerhart

Where To See The Exhibit

Berlin/Los Angeles: Space For Music is on display at the Getty Research Institute in Gallery II from April 25th – July 30th. Thirty minute tours will be given on Tuesdays and Thursdays, through July 27th at 3pm. Admission is free for all ages.