The Colburn School today revealed Frank Gehry’s design for a 100,000-square-foot campus expansion, a collection of indoor and outdoor facilities that will straddle the steep slope of downtown Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill. Dubbed the Colburn Center, the expansion will join the Walt Disney Concert Hall and a two-tower, mixed-use complex still under construction, forming a three-block district of Gehry’s work in the heart of his hometown.
Colburn officials say that the school—a private institution that offers music and dance instruction for children and houses a music conservatory—needs new performance spaces to present additional programs to the public. The project, for which $270 million has already been raised, encompasses a 1,000-seat concert hall, dance studios, production and recording facilities, and a studio theater, among other spaces.
The expansion will be “an ensemble of interlocking spaces, each with its own identity, creating unique opportunities for rehearsal and performance,” said Colburn president Sel Kardan at a design unveiling held earlier today. “Together, they interact dynamically with the surrounding neighborhood, inviting interaction from the street.”
The main concert hall, which features acoustic baffles executed in cloud-like forms that can only be described as Gehryesque, is being designed in collaboration with acoustic designer Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics, who also served as chief acoustician for Disney Hall, as well as Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.
“The main thing is that the engineering doesn’t overwhelm the human feeling,” said Gehry at the unveiling. The goal of a good concert hall, he added “is to make a connection between the audience and the performers, just like in theater.”
New exterior spaces proposed in Gehry’s plan include a pair of gardens linked by outdoor stairways and pedestrian pathways, as well a large plaza depicted in renderings with theater-like overhead lighting and a pedestrian way in place of one block of 2nd Street—but the latter two proposals remain in the beginning stages of city approvals, according to the school.
The proposed public spaces will help link Colburn to the near-complete towers of the Grand—the residential and retail complex Gehry designed for the block immediately west—and to Disney Hall (2003), Gehry’s best-known work in Los Angeles. For Gehry, now 93, these projects represent a rare opportunity for a single architect to reshape a prominent downtown district—albeit one created through the wholesale razing of the low-rise, low-income Bunker Hill neighborhood in the 1960s.
“Creating a cultural district is everybody’s dream,” said Gehry. “New York has one, so we should have one.”
The project is slated to break ground by March 2023.