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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.