California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) President Steven D. Lavine announced the completion of The Wild Beast -- a shape-shifting, multi-use music pavilion on CalArts' campus designed by the Los Angeles-based architectural firm Hodgetts+Fung. A rolling wall allows the 3,200 square-foot structure to transform from an acoustically refined recital hall accommodating 140 to an outdoor performance space for audiences of up to 1,000. The Wild Beast will begin housing recitals, rehearsals and classes for the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts in fall 2009. It will open to the public with a special performance event in spring 2010.
"Our school of music investigates musical forms in all of their diversity, positioning our students on the leading edge of musical innovation and experimentation. This new music pavilion will offer a host of new possibilities from guest artist master classes and performances to student recitals and festivals across a wide range of music literatures," said President Lavine.
The four million dollar construction cost of The Wild Beast and its exterior amenities was funded, in large part, through the generosity of donors to the Campaign for CalArts. Lead donor Abby Sher explained her choice of name for the building. "The term, 'wild beast' comes from an essay by Morton Feldman about the illusive space in a work of art between surface and subject where meaning lives. It occurred to me that as experimental as CalArts is, and given the flexibility of the building in its functionality and form, if the wild beast could live anywhere, it would be here, so why not give it a chance? And besides, it provides a suitable companion to REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)."
Due to increased enrollment in recent years, CalArts' Herb Alpert School of Music required additional performance, rehearsal and classroom facilities. To address these needs, The Wild Beast was conceived by architects Craig Hodgetts and Ming Fung in response to brain-storming sessions with School of Music Dean David Rosenboom, Abby Sher and President Lavine. The result was a building designed to meet multiple requirements within a single efficient space.
Described as a "mini Hollywood Bowl," when the front wall is rolled open, the acoustically sophisticated structure becomes the stage for a natural amphitheater. In this outdoor performance mode, sound is projected from the building's curved back wall and focused by front windows that pivot to become acoustic awnings above the stage. In addition, The Wild Beast houses a permanent state-of-the-art 5.1 surround system.
Hodgetts+Fung drew on their experience with performing arts venues and unconventional materials to create The Wild Beast's elegant, sculptural architecture. The team's acclaimed projects include the most recent renovation of the Hollywood Bowl, the 110-acre performing arts center and amphitheater for the Minnesota Orchestral Association and the temporary fabric roofed Towell (Powell Temporary) Library at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). In addition, Craig Hodgetts, a founding associate dean of CalArts' School of Design in the early 1970s, had a special affinity for the site.
"The initial image for The Wild Beast came from a fabric building," he said. "We wanted to make it buoyant, feminine and curvaceous--a counterpoint to the geometric forms of CalArts' massive five-level structure. The engineering challenge was to convey a lyrical light-weight quality while using cement and steel. We worked with structural engineer Bruce Gibbons and Chris Kahanek of Thornton Tomasetti to determine the most efficient skeletal form."
"Analogs in the building reflect the physical nature of musical instruments," noted Hodgetts who was trained as a classical musician. "For instance, pieces supporting the windows are similar to gamelan keys. Sound resonates in the building as it might in the body of a cello. The design draws on the same body of thought as the physics of instrument design."
"The Wild Beast is designed to be open, fluid and flexible, and will enable a myriad of performance opportunities for every program in our school," said David Rosenboom. "It will address serious functional needs and, at the same time, delineate a beautifully enfolding structure for a space of infinite play, a perfect metaphor for the mission of our school of possibility."
Landscape designer and CalArts alumnus Allen Compton is planning a vibrant garden setting for the surrounding courtyard--conceiving the amphitheater and lawn as a space for both public performances and informal campus gatherings. In recognition of the generous gift from the S. Mark Taper Foundation, CalArts has named the courtyard the S. Mark Taper Foundation Courtyard. The Courtyard is slated for completion in winter 2010.
Construction of The Wild Beast was made possible by significant donations by Abby Sher, The Kresge Foundation, Richard Seaver, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the S. Mark Taper Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation, and Catherine and Leigh Smith as well as gifts from many other members of the CalArts community.
Photos: Scott Groller