New York City's iconic Lincoln Center announced today that its massive new David Geffen Hall, where the New York Philharmonic plays, will reopen in October this year, two years ahead of schedule.
The $550 million project reimagines David Geffen Hall with a new state-of-the-art theater that has been designed to create a more welcoming and intimate audience experience, an open and airy Grand Promenade with a large black granite bar, a welcome center with a small cafe and giant lobby, a sidewalk studio for smaller performances and programming, new rehearsal space, dressing rooms and green room.
"The state-of-the-art theater...will revolutionize the acoustics and concert-going experience," said Katherine Farley, the chair of the Board of Directors at Lincoln Center, on Wednesday. "[David Geffen Hall] is a symbol that New York is back better than ever and ready to welcome everyone."
The Theater, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects in collaboration with acoustician Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks and theater designer Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates, is all about improving acoustics. The state-of-the-art space will be curved and have 500 fewer seats (there are still 2,200 of them) that are set closer to the stage, which has been moved forward by 25 feet. The seating wraps around the stage, getting the audience about 30 percent closer to performers. The theater is enveloped in natural beech wood walls that have been made to look like soundwaves and the ceiling is veiled in mesh. This design will help deliver gorgeous acoustic quality. Our favorite new feature is a grouping of firefly lights above the orchestra that will brighten and dim as well as lower before performances begin.
"When it opens this fall, the new theater will be transformational for the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center, both in the intimacy that the redesigned hall offers, as well as the high degree of artistic flexibility permitted by the variable stage configurations," Gary McCluskie, Principal at Diamond Schmitt, said. "The design’s surround hall approach honors the acoustic benefits of a shoebox, while embodying a new model of sound that maintains power, depth and intimacy in equal measures, and we can’t wait for audiences to experience it."
Lincoln Center is pushing for David Geffen Hall to be more welcoming to the public, like a "living room for New York City." Designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, there will be several ways visitors can enjoy the new space.
The Welcome Center, located on the southeast corner of David Geffen Hall accessed via Broadway, will not only house a box office but it'll be a place you can meet friends enjoy a light snack from a small café. There will be moveable garage door-like openings that will expand the space out into the plaza so that it feels more welcoming, too.
Next to the Welcome Center, the lobby will be double the size it was before and will have a lounge, a bar and concessions. It'll also have a massive 50-foot media wall that will screen live, simulcast events and performances so people can enjoy them for free.
There will also be a Sidewalk Studio at the corner of Broadway and 65th Street, which will be a smaller space encased in windows where passersby can see rehearsals, small-scale performances and community gatherings take place.
As its name implies, the Grand Promenade will be a gorgeous space visitors will want to be seen in and do some people watching. It will have reconfigured, sculptural stairs with dramatic overlooks into the space and a large black granite bar with access to an outer terrace. Two large promontories, on the east and west corners of the First Tier overlooking the Grand Promenade, will have more bars and space to mill about. The entire space will be painted with vivid reds, oranges, fuchsias, deep blues, silver, gold and bronze that accompany an abstracted motif of falling felt flower petals that will descend from the upper to the lower floors. The petal motif will be visible in the fabric of the seats in the hall and eight petaled brass chandeliers will line the structural cables of the First Tier overlooks.
More space devoted to visitors has been announced, including a restaurant, a patrons lounge and a "music box," but information on these will be released later.
One thing is for sure—this is Lincoln Center like we've never seen it before. Rather than being an exclusive space for theatergoers, it promises to be accessible to anyone who appreciates the arts. You don't need to attend a performance to enjoy the new space, although that's the best way to experience it. The new David Geffen Hall signals a new chapter in Lincoln Center's history, one that is more inclusive and generous with its wealth of talented performers.
It's fortunate then that the project will open in October, two years ahead of schedule. Because of the pandemic, Lincoln Center was able to work straight through during the two years it was closed to the public—a silver lining for sure.
"The revitalization of David Geffen Hall is a symbol that New York is open for business—the largest cultural investment project to open since before the pandemic, accelerated to show that New York is still the vibrant hub of the cultural world," Henry Timms, President and CEO of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, said. "The fact that we are able to deliver this project on time and on budget speaks to the incredible teamwork at all levels, and sends a clear message that something new and exciting is afoot on this legendary campus—a deep focus on welcome, on audiences both new and existing. You belong here; this is your new David Geffen Hall."