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Design & Style

Take Aways From the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 16:01 min

Frank shares the highlights, and low points, of his time designing and constructing the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall. You'll learn the importance of being a master builder, prototyping your work, and collaborating with other experts.

Frank Gehry
Teaches Design and Architecture
In 17 lessons, Frank teaches his unconventional philosophy on architecture, design, and art.


When I was starting on something like Disney, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, starting out, I didn't have the power to make some of the demands. And on the situation. the client group hired a project manager. The client group hired an executive architect, somebody I approved, but an executive architect who had all the political connections so that his office was considered the adult. And I was the decoration on the side. The mistake was to not draw a line in the sand. I said it publicly in the meeting, it was recorded in the meeting, I just said we're heading for a disaster. You'd better do something about it. And nobody would look at it. They read everything the way they wanted. They said the executive architect was 60% complete with his drawings. So they can go out and get sealed bids. And I said the executive architect was only 30% complete with his drawings, and you couldn't get steel bids. They went ahead did it. They got steel bids. They ordered steel. Executive architect couldn't keep up with the project. And it failed. And they lost, I think, 60 some million dollars. And it was all beyond my control. I warned it. I prewarned it. I did everything I could to prevent it. It did fail. And guess who got blamed? Me. So, for two years in Los Angeles, I would go to dinner or do something and meet-- somebody would inevitably come over to me and say, how could you have done that? That was terrible. And I got to the point where I started looking for office space on the east coast to move my office. The client hired an outside consultant to analyze what went wrong. And they hired the developer Hines, Jerry Hines, to do the forensics. And they were working on it for a week. And then this big Texan guy, who was a partner in Hines came to see me. And I thought, do I really need this, what he's going to say? I'm sure he's part of the, oh yeah, you architects don't know how to-- well, anyway, he came in, he looked at me. He said, Mr. Gehry, you've been fucked. And I looked at him, and I hugged him. He said-- he knew exactly, he did the forensics, he knew exactly what happened. And he told the client group what happened. And he told the bureaucracy what happened. My relationship to the project changed after that. On the second go round, I was told that they were going to use my design, and build it. That I should shut up and let them do it. That was on Friday afternoon. On Monday afternoon, I got a call from the person that told me I was no longer needed. And he said, I hope you're not going to be a sore winner. I said, what are you talking about? And he said, well, Diane Disney Miller, who was the daughter of Walt, who I didn't really know very well, was on the board. And she said that she was hurt the rest of her family bequests further concert hall would be given to ...

About the Instructor

At 19 years old, Frank Gehry was a truck driver taking sculpture classes at night school. His vision for what architecture could accomplish went on to reshape our cities’ skylines and the imaginations of artists and designers around the world. In his online architecture class, this master builder invites you into his never-before-seen model archive for a look into his creative process.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I’m a little older in life and this class seemed to give me a new appreciation of the craft of architecture. I would like to have had more detail of architecture and interior design. This skimmed the life of a persons experience and I didn’t really understand what I was getting when signing up to the class.

This was good, but I wish he showed a little more about him designing instead of just about the thought behind it.

I've been having a tough time with inspiration.Gehry's approach to using everything as a potential source of it is fantastic.

I have learned that design is very versatile and consists of many different layers. Once a designer/architect has discovered his/her fingerprint, every monument is going to be iconic. The human aspect is very important.


Maria G.

This is beautiful, he trasmites his love and passion for the craft, you can see his soul and humanity in what he does.

Francisco D.

All his incredible talent, his description of that intimate moment of testing the hall before it was completed was a very moving experience, reflective of a true artist that loves his craft. I've had the pleasure of experiencing the Disney Hall for a concert and it remains one of the most memorable experiences I have of LA.

Angela K.

The Walt Disney Hall is my favorite building in Los Angeles. I am proud to show it every time I have out of town visitors. I took my father who was visiting from Colombia 🇨🇴 in October 2010, 1 week before he died. We were at Gustavo Dudamel’s LA Philharmonic concert and he started to cry. He was overwhelmed with joy to see so much beauty, the sound of the music and the talent of the LA Phil. Thank you

Graeme R.

Sweet stories and sad, but such heights of emotion. Everyone who has worked in a creative field has stories like the one about the executive architect, and we all regret not putting our foot down and refusing to continue. A very important lesson!

Meridith B.

Love hearing his stories but need more pictures of his works. Don't need to see him as much

Larry S.

What an inspiring story. I'm a software designer and was totally overwhelmed by this story. I'm maybe 1% as talented as Frank (in my field), but that depth of commitment, empathy, expertise, perception and adaptability quite literally brought tears... and is a great example to pursue.


Excellent, it is important to have regard for analysis correctly and see how they work, to bring out the best and even have a good inspiration.

Margaret B.

thank you for taking us on such a personal journey - always challenging but remaining true to one's vision...special gems from this discussion

Mia S.

"I was trying to give it a sense of movement, and that was feeling. It wasn't just an inert box. We got a lot of complaints over the years from people about the restrooms, there not being enough restrooms. I'd see the women lining up, the men not. I was a bad boy, I snuck extra women's restrooms into the project without anybody noticing. Now if you go to the hall, the men are lining up. The woman know that I did that, and man am I the favorite. While this was being built, I was in the hall watching it being constructed, and I calculated in my mind that there was the same amount of absorption and reflective surface that there would be when it's finished. It gets very emotional, these things. When the hall opened, the first rehearsal, I was watching the bass player, because I knew that the most subtle thing that had to happen is the bass response in the sound. They played for a few minutes,and Esa-Pekka [the conductor] stopped them and turned around and said, 'We'll keep it.' Those experiences are for life. Those are the kind of wonderful things that you get if you do your work and enjoy it and get emotionally involved with the projects. That's one of the real great things about being an architect."

Mia S.

"We went to Leipzig Gewandhaus, which the same acoustician had done - it didn't work. The sight lines didn't work and everything, but it's a revered hall, so I couldn't figure out why it was. What moved me - it really felt good, behind the orchestra, there was a slope-seating of 700 seats. It was strange, because when the conductor came in, he got applause, and if people came in walking behind him, they thought they were getting applause. Kind of crazy, but acoustically it works. The acousticians from Japan had figured out how to really hone in on how to guarantee the acoustics. What they did was - somebody should've done earlier - is they built a 1 to 10 model of the great concert halls that worked, built them, sealed them, and filled them with nitrogen, and they put sounds in and they tested every seat. Then they had a basis for comparison, and then every model we did, when we just finally selected the final, we built a 1 to 10 and they did the same thing. The Japanese found a way to make something that could be criticized, evaluated critically, you could count on. The first go-around, we designed it in stone because a metal building in the evening is hard to light. It's like a cheap refrigerator somehow. A stone building - and you see this in the historic buildings in Europe - a stone building, it glows, has a wonderful soft light from the local street lamps, you don't really have to light it. And it was $5 million less to put a metal around this than the stone. The powers that be insisted that I change to metal."