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Gehry a Timely Inaugural Exhibit

Actually, more than Disney Hall is examined in the center's two main galleries; Gehry's work is presented from three directions. First, in the long gallery, the visitor is presented with a series of nine handsome, colorful and clearly written informational panels that examine the evolution of Gehry's work. These depict some of his best-known projects, including his own home in Santa Monica, the concert venue at Chicago's Millennium Park and a new building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Also shown in the long gallery are a number of chairs (from the center's collection) designed by Gehry. These include a signature corrugated cardboard chair manufactured by Vitra, a maple woven chair by Knoll (clearly inspired by bushel baskets) and a molded aluminum chair by Emeco.

Finally, in the great hall (the center's main exhibition space) is a display of some 75 black-and-white photographs by Los Angeles photographer Gil Garcetti. He is also a lawyer and former Los Angeles district attorney who was fascinated by the evolving spectacle of steel-frame construction as Disney Hall went up. Garcetti's photographs range from mural-scaled close-ups of the undulating metal surfaces (he used a Hassleblad Xpan — a 35 mm panoramic camera) to intimate shots of construction workers high atop the beams.

Hung salon-style (one work stacked atop another), the images are technically proficient and crisply elegant. But while a number of the pictures include the construction workers and steelworkers, they don't read as a hymn to the American laborer as did Lewis Hine's or Dorothea Lange's classic 1930s photographs of skyscraper construction in New York City. One photograph, however, comes close. It was shot from overhead (and hangs on the far left side of the gallery's south wall).

Editing might have made this display more digestible. There is tremendous redundancy among the images. And it is impossible to see modest-sized images when they are hung nine feet up the wall. Reducing the display from 75 to 20 works would have strengthened the show. Besides, many of these photographs can be visited in a book, "Iron: Erecting the Walt Disney Concert Hall," by Garcetti.

Adding a handsome spatial element to the great hall installation are a number of Gehry's gray-hued molded chairs, manufactured by Heller.

Eventually, the center may need to install some sort of screening for the expansive windows of the great hall. With the glare and direct light from the gallery's southern exposure, seeing the photos hung on the southern wall was challenging.

Any new facility needs tweaking, but what is important is that the Virginia Center for Architecture has announced its intentions clearly in a number of ways with "Frozen Music." Exhibitions will be relevant to contemporary thinking, both here and internationally. They may reflect a partnership with broader community activities (such as Gehry's Forum appearance). And they will be installed in ways that respect, but are not intimidated by, the beautiful and hallowed walls of the Branch House. — E.S.

"Frozen Music" is on display at Virginia Center for Architecture, 2501 Monument Ave. For more information, call 644-3041 or visit

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