- Project Name
- David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- 8,000 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- Shared by
- Andrea Timpano
- Project Status
The Pocantico Center on the former John D. Rockefeller family estate in Tarrytown, N.Y. is now the home of the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center, a cutting-edge cultural hub with studio and performance spaces for artists in all stages of the creative process.
The goal of the new arts center, which opened in September 2022 after a renovation by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based FXCollaborative, is to “give the visitor an opportunity to see not just the final piece, but also works-in-progress that are being developed,” says Brandon Massey, AIA, a senior associate at the firm.
But the building itself certainly isn’t new. Once a greenhouse constructed in 1906 for growing oranges on the Rockefeller family estate, the historical structure—currently maintained by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a philanthropic organization—fell into disrepair over the years. When the team at FXCollaborative first visited the orangerie, it was filled with a mix of family heirlooms, priceless art (think: a sculpture by French artist Jean Dubuffet), and gardening equipment.
The architects set out to breathe new life into the building, hoping to restore what had been most recently used as a storage facility to its former glory. The ambitious goal? Making the space flexible for the many changing needs of the artists utilizing it while honoring the history of the structure. The orangerie was built to be utilitarian—a wide-open space with 27-foot-tall ceilings and a gravel floor for watering orange trees. To adapt the building for its new purpose, FXCollaborative had to start from the ground up, adding concrete slab flooring before sectioning off the cavernous building to accommodate a gallery, an artist studio, a gathering area, and a rehearsal studio that doubles as a performance space with maple sprung floors and retractable seating. The sections themselves are separated by large doors that can be left open or closed, ensuring that “each space could perform in an independent way,” Massey says.
Sectioning the building presented its own challenge—breaking up what Massey calls “the great monumentality” of the space, which he saw as one of the most important parts of the original structure. So the team installed clerestories above the gallery walls, making certain that the skylight-lined ceiling plane was still visible for people to glimpse the vastness of the space.
In the spirit of versatility, the team also added 40-foot-wide doors to the back of the building, as well as a stage in the rehearsal studio that can pivot 90 degrees to accommodate outdoor seating for performances when the weather allows. When not in use, the airtight doors seal shut, allowing no heat to escape the building during the cold upstate New York winters.
In addition to designing for adaptability, the FXCollaborative team worked to embrace the building’s past while bringing it into the present, particularly in regard to the project’s ambitious net-zero and LEED Platinum certification goals. “Finding a way to build within the existing framework of the [historical] building was really important,” Massey explains.
Three façades of the building, which boasts ten 16-foot arched windows, were protected by the trust, so the firm updated the windows to make them more energy-efficient, including adding double-glazing for more insulation and fitting them with solar and blackout shades. The skylights received the same treatment, ensuring that no matter what the spaces below were being used for—be it a gallery show or a dance performance—they would be properly lit.
Other sustainability improvements include solar panels that generate energy for the building. The landscaping was designed to incorporate the solar array into the garden, locating it in clear view of the center and keeping sustainability top of mind for visitors and artists alike. Beneath the solar panels, a rain garden puts runoff to use, nourishing native grasses and flowers. So while the solar panels are “a piece of infrastructure, they’re also a part of the landscape,” Massey says.
With construction now complete, Massey and his teammates at FXCollaborative have great expectations for the center's visitors. "I hope they see something that’s both historical and a part of this larger place," he says. "There is vibrant creativity happening here."
Project: David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center, Tarrytown, N.Y.
Architect: FXCollaborative, Brooklyn, N.Y. Sylvia Smith, FAIA (senior partner); Brandon Massey, AIA (senior associate); Daniel Piselli, AIA (principal, director of sustainability; Jais Kwon (associate, sustainable design specialist); Elizabeth Himmel
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire/Life Safety Engineer: Altieri Sebor Wieber
Structural Engineer: Silman Structural Engineers, DRP
Civil Engineer: Langan Engineering
Construction Manager: York Construction Corporation
Landscape Architect: MNLA
Lighting Designer: Fisher Marantz Stone
Owners Representative: Envoie Projects
Building Enclosure Engineer: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
Historic Preservation Consultant: Li Saltzman Architects, PC
Theatre Design Consultant: Fisher Dachs Associates
Acoustic and Audio-Visual Consultant: Jaffe Holden
Building Commissioning: Horizon Engineering Associates
Code Consultants: Code Consultants
Controlled Inspections: AK Engineering
Furniture: Miller Blaker
Paint Donation: Benjamin Moore and Co.
Security: NYCON Security Systems, Inc.
Signage: H Plus
Survey and Geotechnical: Langan Engineering
Telescopic Seating: Jezet
Theatrical Lighting: 4Wall Entertainment, Inc.
Thanks: National Trust for Historic Preservation and Greenrock Coordination
MATERIALS AND SOURCES
Acoustical System: USG Ensemble Acoustical Drywall
Bathroom Fixtures: Niagara Toilets; Kohler Kinesis K-103C37-SASA
Cabinets: Custom Miller Blaker
Ceilings: USG Ensemble Acoustical Drywall; Armstrong Calla Ceiling Tiles; Rulon Ceiling Panel
Concrete: McInnis Type 1/II 40-60% slag
Exterior Wall Systems: MemBrain Continuous Air Barrier & Smart Vapor Retarder
Fabrics and Finishes: Mechoshade SoHo 1100 Shades
Ceiling: Rulon Linear Open FSC Wood
Flooring: Norway Maple Performance Floor; TRU PC Architectural Topping
Furniture: Custom FSC Certified Millwork and Furniture
Interior Glass: GGI Float Glass
Historic Window Glass: Guardian SN68/IS20 Low-E
Bird Safe Glass: Cristacurva Solarban 60 VT Starphire Bird Friendly
Gypsum: USG Ecosmart and Sheetrock Brand
HVAC: Trane Mitsubishi VRF Outdoor Unit, Greenheck ERV, Trane Climate Changer CSAA 010, Blue Duct
Insulation: Natural Polymers Natural-Therm Light; Owens Corning Foamular XPS; Owens Corning EcoTough Pink Fiberglass Batt
Lighting Control Systems: Barbizon
Lighting: Lighting Services Inc. Gemini Series; LumeLEX 2084 Series
Metal: L.D. Flecken
Paints and Finishes: Ultra Spec and Eco Spec by Benjamin Moore, SuperSport and Traffic
Photovoltaics or other Renewables: Earthlight Solar and Energy Solutions
Roofing: Carlisle Syntec Systems TPO System
Site and Landscape Products: Hanover Prest Tudor Pavers
Windows and Doors: Parrett Windows; Lamilux Skylights