Monday, January 24, 2011

"A surprise awaits you"

Reporting from Miami Beach — From nearly every exterior angle — as approached from the beach, which is just a few blocks from its front door, or from the boutiques and gelaterias on nearby Lincoln Road — Frank Gehry's building for the New World Symphony looks surprisingly nondescript. Wrapped in glass and white plaster, the six-story concert hall has a boxy profile to go with a rather unassuming architectural personality.

But the building's outward simplicity — miles from the shimmering metal skins of Walt Disney Concert Hall or the Guggenheim Bilbao — turns out to be deceptive. Its soaring sky-lit atrium is filled with a jumble of the architect's familiar sculptural forms. Another collection of his daring shapes awaits inside the auditorium.

Throughout the $160-million concert hall, set to open officially Tuesday evening, the interplay between rectangular containers and their virtuosic architectural contents gives the design a shifting, unpredictable vitality. This is a piece of architecture that dares you to underestimate it or write it off at first glance.

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