New York City Journal: Lincoln Center’s renovation of David Geffen Hall to finish sooner than expected.

by Ron Bernthal

New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the New York
Philharmonic announced in spring, 2021, that the acceleration of the comprehensive renovation of David Geffen Hall, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects │
Partners, is now scheduled to re-open to the public in Fall 2022, almost two years earlier than previously expected.

Designed originally by Max Abromovitz in 1962, the hall has gone under multiple renovations over the decades. These efforts have attempted to address the unresolved acoustical challenges.

The reimagination project reconceives the entire facility within its existing historic shell to create a more welcoming and intimate audience experience featuring state-of-the-art acoustics and technical capabilities. With a new concert hall as the building’s centerpiece, all public spaces are also being reconceptualized to provide greater opportunities for people to gather and more intuitive circulation throughout its public and back-of-house facilities.

David Geffen Hall (photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

“The goal of accelerating this project is to invest in New York City at a time when we all have a part to play in its recovery,” said Katherine Farley, Chair of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “I want to pay tribute to the many people who have supported bringing this effort forward. In doing so, we are creating not just one of the world’s best cultural venues, but a space that welcomes our broader community.”

Peter W. May, Board Co-Chairman of the New York Philharmonic, was also enthusiastic about the symbolism of the re-opening of this popular venue. “Supporting the arts takes on a new, deeper meaning at this moment in history. It has been a long road to securing an advanced, cutting-edge home for the New York Philharmonic; New York’s hometown orchestra
deserves the best. With its new design incorporating true warmth and beauty, this Hall will serve generations to come.”

The acceleration of the Geffen Hall project will support New York City’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic by creating jobs
and additional business opportunities. In the near future, the renovation work will provide immediate and a significant economic support, generating more than $600 million in project-related economic activity through construction into Fall 2022. This includes an estimated 6,000 jobs throughout New York City and in New York State, of which 3,000 are construction jobs.

David Geffen Hall, view behind the orchestra (Photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

In addition, there will be a minimum 30 percent construction participation by minority and women-owned businesses, 40 percent workforce inclusion from underrepresented communities, and a workforce development program established with area officials and community members to create additional full-time job opportunities for local residents.
As of April, 2021, $500 million, or over 90%, of the $550 million project budget has been raised, the vast majority from private sources.

The New York Philharmonic will perform a 2021–22 season, full details will be announced in June, 2021. To accommodate the continuous construction timeline, the Orchestra will perform in several New York City locations, which will be announced with the full schedule in June.

The design team for the Geffen Hall renovation consists of Diamond Schmitt Architects on the theatre; Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects │ Partners on all of the public spaces; acoustician Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks; and theater designer Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates.

Diamond Schmitt’s design for the new theater introduces a “single-room” concept, eliminating the proscenium and moving the stage forward by 25 feet, with audience seating wrapped around it, bringing all seats closer to the performers and providing acoustical and visual intimacy. The new
theater is designed to support a wide range of performance initiatives. Natural wood and curvilinear forms create an immersive experience that transforms the room into a contemporary, sculpted design. Seating capacity will be reduced by 500 seats to 2,200, and a steeper rake (incline) will be added to the orchestra level, significantly improving acoustics and sightlines.

David Geffen Hall interior view (photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

It will also have improved accessibility for guests, staff, and artists with disabilities. The new David Geffen Hall will also have state-of-the-art HVAC systems, filtration and air purifying systems, antimicrobial technology integrated into select surfaces, and a number of additional improvements developed using recommendations from a variety of sources including
the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and AirConditioning Engineers).

David Geffen Hall’s main lobby will double in size and open up on three sides to connect with the campus, and a new Welcome Center on Broadway will offer a portal to Lincoln Center for the public. At the core of the new lobby will be a media streaming wall, which will show concerts and
events for free in real time as well as other digital material. The reconfigured and reenergized Grand Promenade will create one of the largest gathering spaces at a performance facility in New
York City, with ability to welcome more than 1,000 people for an event.

David Geffen Hall (Photo credit Diamond Schmitt Architects)

A dynamic new addition is The Sidewalk Studio, visible from the street on the corner of 65th Street and Broadway, which will be a home for educational, artistic, and community activities — a window into the performers and ideas that live on campus. The Lightwall will wrap around three sides of the interior top of the building, creating space for dynamic mood and architectural lighting. Eleven thousand square feet of much-needed office space will be located behind the Lightwall. The entire North Façade of the building will be reimagined as a “canvas” on which to commission site-specific works, honoring Lincoln Center’s long tradition in the visual arts. All of this will be accomplished while respecting the original and iconic Max Abramovitz building exterior.

David Geffen Hall Media Wall (photo credit Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects Partners)

During performances, there will be expanded intermission seating and bar/food service, including enhanced access to the terrace and new promontories overlooking the main level. A dynamic new addition is The Sidewalk Studio, visible from the street on the corner of 65th Street
and Broadway, which will be a home for educational, artistic, and community activities.


Lubbock Journal: A new building dedicated to native son Buddy Holly.

by Ron Bernthal

The new Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences is West Texas’ largest dedicated performance venue, bringing under one roof the city’s vibrant performing arts community including the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Lubbock, along with a variety of professional touring music and theater productions.

Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in Lubbock, Texas (courtesy Diamond Schmitt/photo Casey Dunn)

The Hall is dedicated to Charles Hardin Holley, born in Lubbock on September 7, 1936, and known professionally as Buddy Holly, a singer-songwriter who was a central and pioneering figure of mid-1950’s rock and roll. Holly was nicknamed “Buddy” by his mother, who felt that his given name was too big for her little boy. “Holly,” the altered form of his last name, would later result from a misspelling in his first recording contract.

After high school, Holly formed a band and played country and western songs regularly on a Lubbock radio station before moving on to national fame with songs like “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue.” On February 3, 1959 Holly, along with fellow performers Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, were flying from Clear Lake, Iowa to play a concert when their plane crashed within minutes of leaving the ground, killing all aboard. Buddy Holly was 22 years old. His funeral was held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lubbock.

LEPAA (Lubbock Entertainment/Public Arts Association) first revealed plans for a state-of-the-art venue in 2013, based on the recommendations of a business plan led by LEPAA’s selected developer, Garfield Public/Private. Later that year, the Lubbock City Council granted the land of the soon to be vacant Department of Public Safety Headquarters as the site to house the new center. After they begin their fundraising efforts, LEPAA received several grants from foundations and one significantly large private donation which helped spring the fundraising campaign into high gear.

LEPAA chose the noted Canadian firm Diamond Schmitt as the design architect of record, and in 2014 Holly’s wife, Maria Elena Holly, graciously gave LEPAA her permission to use her late husband’s name in the title of this performing arts facility, free of royalty, as The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences.

Lubbock LEPAA received an original painting by renowned artist Paul Milosevich, called “The Crickets, the Road and the Lubbock Skyline” it is one of the art pieces displayed in Buddy Holly Hall (image courtesy LEPAA)

The new performance venue, completed in early 2021, is a landmark destination that grew from the community’s needs, inspired by Lubbock’s physical and cultural landscape. The exterior design was influenced by the landscape of West Texas, including the prismatic and layered rock formations of Texas canyons, while the layout of the interior spaces accommodates the Hall’s wide-ranging performance line-up.

Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, lobby view (courtesy Diamond Schmitt/photo Casey Dunn)

Dissolving the barrier between indoors and outdoors, the Hall’s use of glass at ground-level entrances creates a seamless transition for visitors entering and exiting the Hall. Inside, the building moves from spacious public lobbies and flexible spaces for rehearsal and performance, to more limited spaces leading to several small studios and finally, the Hall’s two signature theatres: the 2,297-seat Helen DeVitt Jones Theater, and the more intimate 415-person Crickets Theater.

Helen DeVitt Jones Theater (courtesy Diamond Schmitt/photo Casey Dunn)

The Hall’s two signature theaters were designed in collaboration with partners Jaffe Holden Acoustics and Schuler Shook Theatre Planners to ensure premier acoustics and optimal theater capabilities no matter the type of performance or sound level. Both theaters achieve pure and crystalline sound on par with the world’s leading performance halls through extensive acoustic modeling and precisely placed acoustical banners which enhance the clarity, consistency, and constancy of tone for the audience.

Additionally, the seating in the Helen DeVitt Jones Theater can be reconfigured to accommodate the hall’s vast range of programming. The orchestra seating section can be set for traditional raked, fixed-chair seating or for popular flat-floor general admission.

Responding to the unique environmental challenges of the site, from the intense Texas heat to its location in a flood plain, the design team has created a wonderful new space for the performing arts with world-class facilities that embody the spirit of the West Texas arts community.

Street level view of the venue (rendering courtesy Diamond Schmitt)

The venue’s recent inauguration, with a series of socially distanced, limited-capacity performances, in response to the ongoing pandemic, means that Lubbock now has the largest dedicated performance hall in West Texas, covering 218,000 square-feet. The design includes two theatres of different sizes, a restaurant, two multi-purpose rooms and an outdoor covered amphitheatre. The aim is for this cultural hub to become a very busy place of activity when Covid-related restrictions can be lifted. 

According to Diamond Schmitt, “the design is inspired by the colors and shapes of the landscape of West Texas, including the prismatic and layered rock formations of Texas canyons.” As a result, it features deep-set windows, concrete ‘fins’, and a large overhang that not only ensures shade and protection on ground level, but also creates a sense of architectural tension and movement. 

One of the most interesting features of The Buddy Holly Hall is the iconic guitar wall,  a fine art sculptural installation depicting the image of Buddy Holly playing a Stratocaster. Designed by Texas artist Brad Oldham, the image is a 9,000- piece sculpture made of multiple sizes of guitar picks beautifully cast of aluminum with brushed bronze.

The Buddy Holly Hall is privately funded, owned and operated by The Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Association, with 100% of all contributions directly funding construction of the project. Innovative partnerships with local arts organizations, public schools and universities, and private corporations allowed the venue to be financially self-sustaining upon opening in 2020.

Buddy Holly statue in Lubbock (photo courtesy Visit Lubbock)

As Buddy inspired the world’s best music and musicians with his unique abilities, The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences honors that legacy inspiring future generations of artists, musicians and entertainers.

“Diamond Schmitt deeply understood our community’s dream to create a performing arts campus that promotes entertainment for our region, while also serving as an arts education hub and a cornerstone for downtown revitalization, ” said Tim Collins, chairman of the board of the Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Association. “The result is a beautiful, world-class space unlike anything in our area that will bring our community together and create a new destination for the arts in Lubbock.”

“Just as the idea for The Buddy Holly Hall grew from the Lubbock community, our modern design for the building is inspired by the region’s physical and cultural landscape,” said Diamond Schmitt principal Matthew Lella. “We designed a building that is both open and outward-looking and yet simultaneously invites the public to engage with all the activity happening inside. Responding to the unique challenges of the site, from the intense Texas heat to the location on a flood plain, we have created a signature new space for the performing arts with world-class facilities that embody the spirit of the performers who will be gracing its stages.” 

Diamond Schmitt is a global architecture firm that designs transformative, purpose-driven, and highly sustainable buildings. The firm as designed some of the world’s most iconic performance spaces in the world of music—including Mariinsky Theatre’s Mariinsky II in St. Petersburg, LaMaison Symphonique de Montréal, and The National Arts Centre in Ottawa. With offices in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary, Diamond Schmitt is currently leading the design for Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall in New York City.