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The interior of the Wu Tsai Theater at David Geffen Hall
Photograph: By Michael Moran / Courtesy of David Geffen Hall | The interior of the Wu Tsai Theater at David Geffen Hall

A first look at the Philharmonic's gorgeous new home at Lincoln Center

Here's a sneak peek inside before it opens.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan
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When envisioning the redesign of David Geffen Hall, home to the city’s symphony orchestra, leaders wanted “to create the instrument the New York Philharmonic deserves,” Lincoln Center’s President Henry Timms said during a preview of the space today. 

At first glance, it appears they achieved their goal, transforming the building into a state-of-the-art hub for classical music and a more welcoming space for New Yorkers. The renovated David Geffen Hall will officially open on Saturday, October 8, after completing a $550 million renovation two years early. Opening weekend will feature a pay-as-you-wish performance of Etienne Charles’ new work, “San Juan Hill: A New York Story,” exploring the story of the immigrant communities that populated the land in and around the Lincoln Center area. 

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Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect from the new theater. 

The interior of the Wu Tsai Theater at David Geffen Hall
Photograph: By Michael Moran / Courtesy of David Geffen Hall | A rose petal motif carries through the theater.

A more intimate theater experience

The Wu Tsai Theater, with its red and blue rose petal design, welcomes visitors with a dramatic entrance. The petal motif meant to evoke joy and possibility continues throughout the theater with a pinkish petal design covering the theater’s 2,200 seats. 

The theater used to hold 2,700 people, but cutting those 500 seats allowed designers to extend the stage, add seating behind and beside the orchestra, and bring the musicians 30% closer to every listener. The sight lines are now better for everybody.

Glimmering firefly-themed light fixtures raise and lower above the stage as a nod to musical notes. The glowing lights add to the warm tones in the wood and bronze accents. 

Jaap van Zweden leads the second acoustic rehearsal with New York Philharmonic at the newly renovaded David Geffen Hall, 8/16/2022. Photo by Chris Lee
Photograph: By Chris Lee / Courtesy of David Geffen Hall | Jaap van Zweden leads the second acoustic rehearsal with New York Philharmonic.

Better acoustics 

The reduced seating will also help with acoustics in the space, whether it’s used for classical music, a dance performance, a film festival or even a rock concert. 

The theater fuses both art and science, bringing together cozy wood tones along with rippled wood panels to provide acoustical balance.

The lobby at David Geffen Hall.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan | A welcoming entrance paying homage to the building's mid-century roots.

A much larger lobby

The lobby has doubled in size and now features two mid-century pillars that were once hidden. A 50-foot video wall will livestream every concert for free, so anybody can sit in the lobby and watch. 

“Everything is meant to invite people in,” Deborah Borda, president and CEO of the New York Philharmonic said. 

David Geffen Hall Demolition and reconstruction 1976.
Photography by: Susanne Faulkner Stevens / Courtesy of New York Philharmonic | The hall was reconstructed once before in 1976.

A storage area turned sidewalk studio 

A piece of prime real estate near Broadway was long hidden away as an office and storage area, but it’s now been turned into a room with large windows that organizers are calling the sidewalk studio, a flexible performance space for 110 people. In the future, it could also hold kids’ events, yoga or live acoustic music.

The lobby at David Geffen Hall.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan | Inside the lobby, you can grab a drink and hang out to watch the show on the digital screen.

A new restaurant and bar

In addition to bars/cafes in the lobby, a new restaurant called Tatiana will open in November. Led by chef Kwame Onwuachi, a native New Yorker from the Bronx and visionary chef, Tatiana will explore Afro-Caribbean flavors on the menu.

The stage at David Geffen Hall.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan | Spend less time in the bathroom line and more time in this magnificent theater.

Bigger bathrooms

It may sound pedestrian, but being able to find the bathroom quickly during intermission really does matter. This design has doubled the number of toilets so there’s less time waiting in line and more time back in the theater enjoying the music. 

Inaugural concert for the opening of Philharmonic
Photograph: By Bob Serating / Courtesy of New York Philharmonic | Inaugural concert for the opening of Philharmonic (Avery Fisher) Hall on September 23, 1962.

Events

Speaking of enjoying the music, mark your calendar for two celebratory galas held on October 26 and October 28, plus a free open house weekend on October 29 and 30 featuring hundreds of artists animating the entire hall with performances, participatory activities and family events.

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