Disney Concert Hall Redux

As president of the owner/operator of Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, I read with interest the article on Frank Gehry’s Beekman Tower. While it was generally informative, I wish to correct serious errors in the first paragraph.

Walt Disney Concert Hall is a complex structure perfectly designed and suited to its purpose. As such, the design and construction team were, indeed, confronted with challenges that far exceed those of Beekman Tower. To say that Disney Hall was “tortuous” to build is like saying a Wagner opera is “tortuous” to perform. Such profoundly important and demanding work requires contractors and subcontractors [that are] up to the task.

The “10,000 RFIs” noted in the article are folklore and a gross exaggeration. The fact that there were many RFIs is because the subcontractors lacked the capacity to deal with the CATIA documents, although the unusual complexity of the structure and the use of CATIA was clearly understood going in. If anything, Gehry Partners should be praised for its exceptional patience and forbearance as the shop drawing process belatedly evolved to meet the needs of the project.

To say that Disney Hall “was $174 million over budget” is grossly inaccurate. In 1998, at the end of design development, the board established a project budget of $207 million for hard costs. It was completed in 2003 within that budget!

Finally, after the end of construction, the contractor lodged an unjustified, overreaching claim in excess of $50 million. Gehry Partners were not a party to that legal action. The suit froze all payments from the owner to the contractor. In the end, the mediators settled the claim for $17 million—the total of retention and justified change orders, which the owner had offered to pay before the lawsuit. Mr. Gehry and his associates were not sued and had no role in the outcome.

We at the Music Center are proud of Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Stephen D. Rountree
President and CEO
The Music Center
Los Angeles

Editor’s Note: The original overall budget announced for the Walt Disney Concert Hall was $100 million. In more than 20 articles published since, the cost estimate released by Disney moved up and down as the design was changed. Two feature-length stories include interviews with construction team members about the challenges, including the redesign of the curtain wall and the structure. When the building opened in 2003, Disney gave ENR a $274-million overall cost figure. In the story “Disney Settles With Contractors over L.A. Concert Hall Overruns”, the contractor reported that there were more than 10,000 requests for information during construction.

Price Check on Hybrid Excavator, Please

I would like to clarify a point in your article about Komatsu’s test marketing of its Hybrid PC200LC-8 excavator. We never quoted a figure of $225,000 for the cost of the excavator.

Komatsu is test-marketing the hybrid excavator in North America to determine how much interest there would be in this market for such a machine. At this point, there have been absolutely no decisions made regarding how a hybrid excavator would be priced.

Mari Aoyagi
Manager, Communications Komatsu America Corp.
Rolling Meadows, Ill.