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Walking Tour: Lily’s Rose

December 4, 2010

Rose in shadow

An attraction for many reasons since its completion in October 2003, architect Frank Gehry’s, Disney Hall, deserves the attention. With its soaring, swooping, gleaming surfaces, it is architecture as pure emotion. Visitors caught up in the drama of the architecture may not realize that this world-class performance venue also has a garden … and, the focal point of that garden is a single rose. The rose was designed by Gehry, for namesake Walt Disney’s wife, Lily. A tribute to her affection for Delft china, and her favorite flower, it’s a 22 x 17-foot wide, 7-foot tall, sculptural fountain. But whereas the building shines coolly in the sun, the rose exudes the warmth felt by those who commissioned it: Lily Disney’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Water cupped

Two hundred Royal Delft porcelain vases, at a cost of $34,000, were smashed and used in the fountain’s mosaic surface. And, like a classic blue-and-white Delft teacup, cradles water gently in its hollows. No splashing, spouting or sprays, this fountain is very quiet, very feminine and understated. It sits next to the monumental Hall in an organic counterpoint to the building’s cool sharpness.


Even the dedication receives the mosaic treatment and is broken in three pieces.

Petal swoop

Circling the rose, it’s easy to get caught up in its curving contours. Visually, it’s gorgeous … but also I love running my hands over the fountain in wide sweeps. I can feel the coolness of the porcelain, combined with the smoothness of the overall forms, while also taking note of the broken porcelain’s edges … this fountain is a very tactile sculpture.


There were various tour groups enjoying the story of the rose, but the docents didn’t linger. They quickly move on, and I can have the rose to myself again.

Garden path

The rose is part of the Hall’s “garden for public gathering” that also includes meandering paths, seating areas with tables, a small amphitheater, and many trees. The trees are especially striking, and their foliage provides pools of shade along the paths. In the top picture, above, the tree with huge leaves on the right is a pink ball tree (dombeya wallichii); in the two lower pictures, the trees with the attractively gnarled trunks are known as naked coral trees (erythina coralloides). A shady secret garden in downtown LA, I wish my office was closer. I’m certain I’d find sitting in the garden with Lily’s rose a serene respite from workday craziness.

To take a virtual tour of Disney Hall, and its garden, click here.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2010 3:01 pm

    Taking the stuff of romantics, china and roses, and turning them into a sculpture that’s not cloying, now that’s a challenge. What a wonderful tribute that I didn’t know was there. I’ll have to get a look over the holidays.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 4, 2010 4:04 pm

      It is rather tucked away… but a very sweet spot in the shadow of the titanium behemoth

  2. December 5, 2010 7:10 am

    Best secret garden in LA!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 5, 2010 1:07 pm

      I really love it, especially when I have it all to myself…

  3. December 7, 2010 1:05 am

    Well that is just gorgeous! Thank you for including the people shot for visual scale.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 7, 2010 3:58 am

      Thanks for noticing, Loree … I finally decided that was a good reason to leave the tourists in!

  4. Megan permalink
    December 8, 2010 4:25 am

    Oh my! Our holiday S. California roadtrip is starting to come together, but we need to spend some more quality time looking at your blogs. This definitely needs to be added to the list of must stops.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      December 8, 2010 4:32 am

      Awesomeness …. lemme know if I can answer any questions, it’s thrilling to know you guys will be around the southland!


  1. Lily And Rose Tribute
  2. Interview | Garth Clark, Frank Gehry and Lilly Disney | CFile Foundation

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