Stories » Frank Gehry and Daniel Barenboim on their new concert hall in Berlin / New York Times

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Frank Gehry and Daniel Barenboim on their new concert hall in Berlin / New York Times

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It started with the scribble of an oval. Several years ago the architect Frank Gehry, known to begin his building projects with expressive and curvy sketches, drew the crude shape for Daniel Barenboim, the conductor and pianist who had enlisted him to design a new chamber music hall here. Mr. Gehry forgot the drawing, he recalled during an interview with Mr. Barenboim at the completed concert hall, named the Pierre Boulez Saal, after the revolutionary composer and conductor who died last year at 90. It opens on Saturday with a sprawling three-hour concert by the Boulez Ensemble that spans musical history from Mozart to Mr. Boulez himself.

Instead, when Mr. Gehry presented his first model to Mr. Barenboim, the hall had a conventional look: an orchestra on risers facing an auditorium. "He looked at me and said, ‘But Frank, this is so disappointing.'" Mr. Gehry said. "‘What happened to that sketch you gave me?'" So Mr. Gehry, who designed the Cubist-like Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, returned to the oval shape, which in its finished form also fulfills a wish of Boulez's to create a "salle modulable," a modular 360-degree space in which the performers and audience (as many as 682 listeners here) can be reconfigured without compromising acoustics. The oval, it turns out, is also a convenient symbol for the theme of unity that pervades the hall.  PHOTO: Thomas Rosenthal

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