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Berlin/Los Angeles: Space for Music, now on view at the Getty
Hans Scharoun (German, 1893–1972). Berlin Philharmonic, 2017. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Concert halls can be signature features of a city’s landscape, fostering a strong resonance between architecture and the cultural life of the city. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the sister-city partnership between Berlin and Los Angeles, Berlin/Los Angeles: Space for Music on view at the Getty Research Institute from April 25 through July 30, 2017 explores two iconic buildings: Hans Scharoun's Berlin Philharmonic (Berliner Philharmonie, built 1960–1963) and Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall (built 1999–2003).

The exhibition draws on the Getty Research Institute’s archival holdings on Frank Gehry and borrows material on Hans Scharoun from the Academy of the Arts in Berlin. Focusing on the buildings' extraordinary interiors and exteriors, Berlin/Los Angeles: Space for Music brings together original drawings, sketches, prints, photographs, and models to convey the architects' design processes.

“A concert hall is a unique building. It is a space for music, a space for cultural activity and prominent civic landmark. Like Hans Scharoun before him, Frank Gehry is a master of the form and has created many of the world’s most iconic buildings, including our own beloved Walt Disney Concert Hall,” said Thomas W. Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute. “At the Getty Research Institute, we collect and preserve archives such as this for research and study but we can also activate these archives. In this case, I’m sure visitors will be intrigued to see how these two important buildings, so well represented in our archives, compare and contrast.”

The importance of model making to both architects is highlighted in the exhibition. The Frank Gehry archive at the GRI contains more than 120 models from all phases of the Walt Disney Concert Hall project and both a model of the whole building and an earlier study model of the interior concert hall will be on view. From fragile constructions pieced together with tape and paper to representations of the future building, these models convey the extensive process by which abstract ideas evolve into three-dimensional objects.

Model making was also crucial to Hans Scharoun’s design process. He created models of various types and sizes when designing the Berlin Philharmonic. For example, Scharoun constructed a model of the concert hall in section as a way of representing the spatial components and arrangement of his “valley” concept in three dimensions. Unfortunately, the working models that Scharoun used to design the Berlin Philharmonic no longer exist. In order to better understand both the structure itself and Scharoun’s process, the GRI collaborated with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD to create a 3-D model of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Interior for the exhibition.

The exhibition also includes a model of Pierre Boulez Hall, a concert hall designed by Gehry which opened in Berlin in 2017. The Pierre Boulez Hall is located in the Mitte district, the historic center of Berlin.

“The parallels of Frank Gehry and Hans Scharoun’s work, especially in these two buildings, go beyond style and function,” said Maristella Casciato, co-curator of the exhibition. “In both architects we can see a deep understanding and appreciation for a building’s place in landscape and place in culture. As much as it is about how people and sound move through these spaces, it is also about how these spaces for creation are characters in their communities.”

Hans Scharoun (1893–1972) was an active member of the German avant-garde from the 1910s to the 1930s. He belonged to both the Glass Chain, an expressionist group led by architect Bruno Taut (1880– 1938), and the Ring, a group of architects who advocated for modern architecture in Germany. Scharoun is renowned, in particular, for his watercolors of utopian architecture, executed from the 1920s to the 1940s. After World War II, he oversaw the creation of the first urban plans for Berlin, although the plans were not implemented, as the city was divided in 1948. Scharoun was very prolific in the postwar era, and the Berlin Philharmonic is undoubtedly the architect’s most acclaimed and influential built work.

Raised in Toronto, Frank Gehry (b. 1929) moved to Los Angeles in 1947. Throughout his architectural career, Gehry has designed many renowned buildings around the world. His approach to design is distinctive for its insistence that buildings address the context and culture of the sites where they are located. Gehry’s noteworthy projects include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Gehry has received many prestigious awards including the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1989), the J. Paul Getty Medal (2015), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2016). In 1988 he was selected to create the new building for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was completed in 2003.

“It is so exciting to bring Scharoun to the attention of a larger audience with this exhibition,” said Emily Pugh, co-curator of the exhibition. “Scharoun is better known in Germany than the US and he played a central role in shaping the urban landscape of Berlin in particular, through the construction of several modernist homes and housing estates, the State Library, and, of course, the Berlin Philharmonic. With the Philharmonic he revolutionized the design of concert halls, and his influence reverberates in the designs of Walt Disney Hall and even in the Elbphilharmonie, which opened just this year in Hamburg.”

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