Architecture

Heatherwick wins renovation of NY Philharmonic home

Thomas Heatherwick will be the leading designer for the renovation of New York Philharmonic home, at Lincoln Center. Along with Diamond Schmitt Architects, he won the 500 million USD project.

David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center
David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

Firstly known as the “philharmonic hall”, the 2,700-seat venue was designed by Max Abramovitz and originally named Avery Fisher Hall. The first to open at Lincoln Center Campus and the largest of three performance venues facing each other at Lincoln Center. It has been the stage of many performances, both by the New York Philharmonic orchestra and other renewed orchestras or soloists.

In September 2015, it became the David Geffen Hall, in honor of music and media executive and philanthropist, whose $100 million donations paved the way to a significant renovation and creation of a new arena. The facing Max Abramovitz’s 1962 building is also to have the auditorium remodeled, although its facades will remain.

The selection of the design team is a significant step, ending a decade of efforts to renovate de venue. Firstly, the renovation was supposed to be part of $1.2 billion Lincoln Center’s redevelopment, but Philharmonic officials would not move forward. Back in 2002, Foster & Partners won a competition against names like Rafael Moneo, Toyo Ito, Rem Koolhaas or Jean Nouvel. But it fell, due to a political and financial changing climate. Voted in 2005 to proceed with Mr. Foster design, the Lincoln Center decided to change and start a competition, two years ago, evaluating 100 firms.

David Geffen Hall, auditorium
David Geffen Hall, auditorium

Now, Heatherwick Studio of London and Diamond Schmitt Architects, of Toronto, have beaten 100 rivals after the two-year competition. They successfully responded a brief that specifically demands the creation of a concert hall for the 21st century where “architecture is at one with music” with world-class acoustics.

The construction is expected to begin only in 2019. In the meantime, a wide team will be working together to develop further the project and finalize the design. The Lincoln Centre and the New York Philharmonic are to work closely with the project team: Heatherwick and Diamond Schmitt. The theater design firm Fisher Dachs and acoustics design firm Akustiks are also involved. In addition to re-creating state-of-the-art concert hall, with world-class acoustics, the team will be in charge of reimagining the auditorium. The venue will also be the institution’s hall of fame home, honoring and celebrating performing arts and film at Lincoln Center.

An inspiring combination of complementing strengths

Thomas Heatherwick, 45, is a British designer best known for his experimental projects. He set up the Studio in a unique design practice, two decades ago. Heatherwick Studio soon became at the forefront of the new wave in the UK, heart centered on invention and based in the spirit of discovery.  Amongst it’s iconic inventions are, the well known London 2012 Olympic Cauldron; the new hybrid double-decker bus for London and UK Pavilion at 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Shanghai World Expo 2010 - UK Pavillion
Shanghai World Expo 2010 – UK Pavillion, by Heatherwick Studio

Heatherwick, however, has limited experience in major buildings. Especially considering that the Pritzker-winning Norman Foster was the architect who, a decade ago, was commissioned to redesign Avery Fisher Hall.  Diamond and Schmitt seems to be complementing Heatherwick creativity with experience. Philharmonic’s president, Matthew VanBesien, declared they chose Heatherwick for being a “visionary guy” and Diamond Schmitt because they were involved in more than 40 performing art spaces. Among these are New Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts, in Toronto, and the Maison Symphonique de Montréal.

Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, by Diamond Schmitt Architects
Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, by Diamond Schmitt Architects
Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts in Toronto, by Diamond Schmitt Architects
Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts in Toronto, by Diamond Schmitt Architects

Katherine Farley, chairman of Lincoln Center for performing arts, declared Heatherwick and Diamond Schmitt as the “inspiring combination” that would bring “contemporary design excellence, respect for the historic architecture of the hall, and extensive experience creating acoustically superb performance halls”. Oscar S. Schafer, chairman of the New York Philharmonic, added that pairing both “offers the most compelling potential” that reflects the artistry of this orchestra, supporting “philharmonic evolution as a 21st-century institution”.