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Monday, January 07, 2008

Alice Tully Hall

Alice Tully Hall in Manhattan, New York by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

One component of the renovation of the the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan's Upper West Side, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in collaboration with FxFowle Architects, is Alice Tully Hall, what the design architects call "a good multi-purpose hall for chamber music, film, dance and theater...imperfect for any particular use.*" Their task is to improve the acoustics of the hall for a focus as an "intimate" chamber music venue and reveal the theater that has languished behind stone walls for so many years.

By clicking on the image at left, one can see how the exterior renovation envisioned by the architects -- currently under construction -- compares to the old stone edifice facing Broadway. While the architects preserve the effect of an outdoor space created by the cantilevered upper floors, they achieve this by extending the building towards Broadway and creating a glassed-in lobby space where the wood walls of the theater are visible to passers-by.

In effect, DS+R manage to achieve a lot by reducing costs associated with demolition and potentially improving the outdoor public space by making it more active, with bleachers, interactive displays, and the spillover from the lobby space. But it is inside that the subtle design skills of DS+R are apparent. They contend that with the preservation of all 1,100 seats the design had to take place "within 18 inches" of the existing. Their solution is an undulating wood wall with sections illuminated via a veneer/resin assembly developed specifically for the hall. This allows for continuity of surface, a design free of visible light fixtures, and the ability to achieve gradients of brightness at different times and for different effects.

DS+R's design is a supreme balancing act of public outdoor space and semi-public theater. While the focus is clearly on the latter, it is the former that will be seen and experienced the most by the city's residents and visitors. The decision to "expose" the theater's wood hall illustrates the bridging of these two realms and considerations.

*Quotes from Diller + Scofidio (+ Renfro): The Ciliary Function by Guido Incerti, Daria Ricchi, and Deane Simpson.

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