One of the major things I wanted to do in South Beach on recent trip was to see the Frank Gehry designed New World Symphony Hall. I had been reading about it since it opened over a year ago and was quite intrigued.
The funny thing is that we had trouble finding it.
The people who know Star-architect Frank Gehry’s work are probably shaking their heads. Whatdayamean? Couldn’t find a Gehry building? The swoops and swirls are so iconic that one certainly couldn’t miss it.
But after seeing a huge white shoebox on the site on my map, I realized, “Hmmm, this is it.” Not what I expected. Not from Frank Gehry and not in Art Deco land in South Beach.
And that was all by design.
On the outside it is nothing at all like the buildings Gehry has built his reputation on–the Guggenheim in Bilbao Spain or the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with their shimmering metal skins and dramatic shapes and swoops and swirls.
You have to go inside to see the swoops and swirls, trademark of the 82 year old architect, who apparently is going strong.
The building is designed to pump new life into the classical orchestra music, by bringing the best and the brightest, most talented and ambitious of new music majors recently graduated from all over the world, giving them a phenomenal “musical sandbox” to play in and perfect their talents.
The concert we heard in the intimate hall, complete with every technical innovation possible, was magical. Hard for me to understand at times.
But so were many of the “greats” when they first composed and performed. Can you name any well known composers who were thought of as avant garde in their day?
But let’s talk about the building. The 100,000 square feet structure includes the intimate concert hall, several recital spaces and over two dozen practice rooms in a building that saves the iconic Gehry swoops and swirls for the inside.
Over the entrance is a large Frank Stella sculpture, described by musically minded husband as, “like the music we heard– challenging.”
The performance hall reflects the beachy feeling of the major vacation destination–driftwood, tans, soft white and ocean blues. It is loaded with hydraulically operated stage sections that can morph into an unlimited number of configurations. Several small balconies can house individual performers while a larger group performs on the stage.
Above the stage are three huge hard surface “sails” used for projecting video or words to enhance the experience.
Wonderfully innovative and democratic is the fact that ten cameras can capture what is going on inside and simul-cast real time on the 7000 square foot outside video wall for the enjoyment of more than 1000 folks sprawled on their blankets on the lawn in the adjoining the park.
This is truly taking the music to the people. You pay to watch from inside seating. You just show up to watch the same performance outside
The park, a charming combination of sinuous paths and curvy concrete benches that taper to the ground is a marvelous contrast to the big box, softening its hard edges.
On the tour, we were able to visit the roof of the building, an exquisite space with exotic plants and killer views of the area, perfect for after concert soirees or fundraising functions.
I surely wouldn’t turn down an invite and would love to go back for more musical adventures.
So if you’re ever in South Beach the New World Symphony Hall is a must see. I’d love to go back to experience more musica in this marvelous setting.
To read about Frank Gehry’s Dancing Building in Prague, click here.