Launch Slideshow

Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York

Diller Scofidio + Renfro redesign Juilliard and Alice Tully Hall as the beginning of the grand re-making of New York's Lincoln Center

Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York

Diller Scofidio + Renfro redesign Juilliard and Alice Tully Hall as the beginning of the grand re-making of New York's Lincoln Center

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    Donna Pollata

    Alice Tully Hall's dramatic new profile along Broadway and 65th Street heralds some of the many changes under way at Lincoln Center, where Diller Scofidio + Renfro and FXFowle are remaking the complex to make it more accessible and welcoming to the public.

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    Sandor Acs

    While the original approach to Alice Tully Hall was reticent to the point of being hard to find ...

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    Iwan Baan

    ... the new one makes visibilty of priority, and uses two types of curtain wall to achieve it. The lower lobby level is a one-way cable-net system by W&W Glass, and the Juilliard expansion on the upper floors is clad in a glass-fin curtain wall designed by R.A. Heintges & Associates and manufactured by Seele.

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    Iwan Baan

    The paneling in the lobby is FSC-certified tongue-in-groove muirapiranga. The wood surface incorporates the back of the bar and the box office, covers up doors, and includes light locks where they are needed. Similarly, floors of Portuguese azul ataija limestone seem to morph into the 45-foot long cantilevered bar counter.

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    David Lamb

    Early on, DS+R decided to draw many of the features in the new interiors out of the bones of the old: The original lobby was four feet below street level ...

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    Iwan Baan

    ... and the team exploited this to turn the space into an informal theatre-in-the-round for the passerby, who can sit on a grandstand or on shallow steps outside to watch the goings-on.

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    Iwan Baan

    The warmth of the moabi veneer-and-resin panels is the hall's defining feature; they clad everything from the walls and balcony to the tip-and-fly panels on the ceiling and pivoting stage panels. The latter can be easily moved to change the acoustics for different types of musical performances, as well as film, theater, and dance events.

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    Iwan Baan

    When the panels at the back of the stage are closed, a grid of perforations is evident. Not only do these perforations form a decorative pattern, they also allow sound to be absorbed and modulated by the backing acoustic material during certain types of performances and stage configurations.

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    Iwan Baan

    At the beginning and end of a performance, sections of the paneling, including the curved lip of the balcony, begin to glow as LEDs behind them turn on.

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    Mark Bussell

    Hall interior before renovation.

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    Wall Sections

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    Alice Tully Hall is the first completed element of an ambitious plan to revitalize the 50-year-old Lincoln Center cultural complex according to Diller Scofidio + Renfro's 2004 master plan. The plan's primary goals include giving the 12 constituent organizations a stronger public presence and reintegrating the 16.3-acre campus into the urban fabric. All projects are scheduled for completion by 2011.

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    Lincoln Center

    Promenade, August 2009 (top left). To reconfigure the campus' main entrance at the Josie Robertson Plaza, DS+R and Beyer Binder Belle submerge the vehicular access road that separates it from Columbus Avenue below. A broad travertine staircase features risers with scrolling LED panels to broadcast event information; Morphing Lawn, Fall 2010 (top right). The hyperbolic paraboloid form of the public lawn on the North Plaza is so dramatic that it is easy to forget it is a green roof. It sits atop a new restaurant pavilion that overlooks 65th street, and touches ground at the edge of the renovated reflecting pool; a thin glass barrier keeps people from wandering too close to the edge; 65th Street, Fall 2010 (bottom left). DS+R will remove the 210-foot wide concrete pedestrian bridge over 65th street, and use the resulting openness to give a fresh public face to each institution on the block. Wider sidewalks accommodate crowds and provide continuity with the revamped North Plaza across the street. A new, more delicate pedestrian bridge will be put in place to ensure that Alice Tully Hall and Juilliard remain readily connected to the main Lincoln Center campus; Visitor Center, Fall 2009 (bottom right). Harmony Atrium, an open-air passge connecting Columbus Avenue and Broadway, will give way for a Visitor Center designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. The long and narrow space is lit by 16 large oculi, and house a cafe and discount ticket booth.

The architecture and planning of the 1960s certainly has its detractors, but Liz Diller is not one of them: “Perhaps I have an affection for ugly things, but Lincoln Center is a real part of New York City iconography,” she said. “It is the kind of place that architects love to hate, but we wanted to give it a second chance.” In their renovation of Alice Tully Hall, Diller and her partners Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro, along with Sylvia Smith of FXFowle Architects, have gone one better and given Lincoln Center another life. Their renovation and expansion of Pietro Belluschi’s 1969 design reverses some of its bunker-like attitudes towards its patrons and the surrounding city.

The project’s scope was two-fold: The Juilliard School, which occupies the building’s top three stories, needed another 45,000 square feet, and the auditorium’s interiors and public spaces needed to be more welcoming. Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and FXFowle accomplished both by extruding the upper floors out to the sidewalk, covering a rarely-used plaza, and then slicing off one corner to create a lobby and café. A dance studio punches through the one-way cable-net glass curtain wall, and the entry feels like an extension of the sidewalk.

If the goal with the lobby was to bring the city inside, the hall itself must keep it out, especially the rumble of the subway. According to acoustician Mark Holden of the firm JaffeHolden, his team measured every surface of the old hall to determine which were re-radiating the subway’s noise, and found that the stage and seating floors were big contributors, as were vertical panels on the proscenium stage. To mitigate the problem, the new floors sit on a floating concrete slab with a rubber pad, and the spin walls are mounted on giant rubber isolators.

Even with the trains banished to their lair under Broadway, DS+R still faced some real constraints. “We sometimes call it an architecture of 18 inches,” said Diller, “because we couldn’t change the bones at all—we were only contouring the cavity.” After a back-and-forth process with Holden to develop a form that would foster a brighter, more evenly distributed sound, DS+R decided to incorporate everything into the skin—aesthetics, acoustics, and lighting—in order to eliminate visual clutter and fulfill their brief of creating an inviting space.

The auditorium skin consists almost entirely of translucent wood veneer-and-resin panels that DS+R developed specifically for the project with 3form. Panels peel out to form gill-like acoustic baffles along side walls, form a compound curve around the base of the stage, or become pivoting pyramid shapes that bounce sound. At the rear of the stage, a pattern that looks decorative turns out to be a mechanism for diffusing high-frequency sound. Most strikingly, sections of the balcony and side walls give off a soft pinkish light as LEDs hidden behind them turn on. Concertgoers have burst into applause as the theater lights dim and the walls begin to glow.

Concert halls are ultimately judged by the way they sound, but this spontaneous enthusiasm suggests that the architects succeeded in creating the warm and intimate space the client hoped for. And paired with the lobby’s airy bustle and embrace of street theater, the building is the best argument for second chances that New York has seen in some time.