Crystalline landmark for Los Angeles. Frank O. Gehry will design L.A. Philharmonic's home

THE most important architectural landmark here since the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was completed in 1964 is set for symbolic ground-breaking a year from now. With a warning that the ``terrifying process'' of working out the acoustics lies ahead, Frank O. Gehry, a local architect, accepted his commission Monday from the Walt Disney Concert Hall Committee to design the future home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The facility has been made possible by a $50 million gift from Mr. Disney's widow, Lillian.

Although Mr. Gehry's model was chosen over three other finalists, committee chairman Frederick Nicholas said the proposed design is subject to further possible revision. ``What we have selected, after much research and deliberation, is a creative response that will lead to a landmark work of architecture...,'' Mr. Nicholas said.

Gehry, whose buildings dot the local landscape but who has never before received a major commission in this city, envisions the new hall's conservatory-like glass foyer, with its lush plants and panoramic view, as providing the perfect setting for gatherings and chamber concerts. Gehry's model shows a transparent covering used to unite inside and out. The covering fans out from irregular, tiered levels of limestone. A dome-shaped glass caf'e punctuates a plaza with lush plantings. Walkways abound, one of them crossing adjacent First Avenue to the existing Music Center.

The Disney complex will include a 2,500-seat concert hall, a musicians' garden, a library, rehearsal space, and an underground garage.

Lauding the architect's feel for Los Angeles - ``it's light and color and poetry'' - the architecture subcommittee wrote: Gehry ``has conceived an inspired and yet appropriate structure that belongs especially to Los Angeles and which will be perceived internationally as a mark of our cultural maturity.''

Neither the committee nor Gehry could give much detail about the kind of interior planned for the concert hall until after weeks of talks with top acousticians. Gehry did, however, explain the general outlines of his model, specifically the conservatory idea. ``We wanted something that was inviting and informal by day and that could also translate to a special atmosphere at night,'' Gehry said.

The use of glass and openness is intended to eliminate the forbidding, exclusive feel of some cultural centers and to make the public aware of what goes on inside. Gehry wants the new hall to be a jewel in a broadened downtown cultural zone.

Ernest Fleischmann, artistic director of the Philharmonic, lauded both the model and the working relationship between orchestra and architect. ``I know of no other concert hall built in recent times where musicians have played such a large part in the creative process from the beginning,'' Mr. Fleischmann said. ``This will truly be a home for musicians and audience.''

The other finalists were Gottfried B"ohm of Cologne, West Germany; Hans Hollein of Vienna; and James Stirling of London. The criteria they were asked to meet: acoustical and architectural integrity, a comfortable relationship to surroundings, and a design that would pay tribute to the creative genius of Walt Disney.

Ground-breaking is planned for Dec. 5, 1989, to coincide with the 88th birthday of Walt Disney and the 25th anniversary of the Music Center. Construction is expected to be completed by May 1992.

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