The 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. To mitigate the problem of subway noise, the new floors sit on a floating concrete slab with a rubber pad, and the spin walls are mounted on giant rubber isolators.
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. Sections of the balcony and side walls give off a soft pinkish light as LEDs hidden behind them turn on.
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