We all know Lincoln Center as a destination for opera music and film (this is where the New York Film Festival is hosted, after all). Now, this cluster of buildings in the Upper West Side just reopened its concert hall for the New York Philharmonic (it was previously called the Avery Fisher Hall), as the new David Geffen Hall, which opened in New York City on October 8.
The building was designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. The hall was completed two years early and under budget. It claims to support $600 million in Ongoing Economic Development and create over 6,000 jobs for New Yorkers.
“A huge community came together around the idea of a bright future at a dark time for our city. Now, we can celebrate an economic engine, a vibrant creative hub, and a cultural home for both the New York Philharmonic and all New Yorkers,” said Katherine Farley, Chair of the Board of Directors at Lincoln Center.
“We are so grateful to the many people who helped bring us to this moment — chief among them David Geffen for his original generous and catalytic gift and Clara Wu Tsai for her gift that enabled the acceleration of the project by two years.”
The building is named after record label magnate David Geffen, who founded Geffen Records in 1980, and is now 79.
“This must be the first NYC building project that is finishing early! And on budget! I want to congratulate all those who stepped up to get this done, especially during such a tough time,” said Geffen in a statement.
“It is a remarkable achievement. This is great for Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, and the arts. Most of all, this is great for New York. It is so much more than a renovation: it is a true re-imagination.”
“This new hall is not only about great music, but also about creating a welcoming destination for everyone in our community,” he added.
The building boasts changes to the original design. The architects moved the escalator and grand stairwell that used to flank the former ticket hall, and opted for an open concept floor plan, according to Gary McCluskie of Diamond Schmitt Architects.
They added a “community living room” with furniture, a coffee bar and more in the lobby, facing the Lincoln Center’s famed fountain plaza. This hall is all about acoustics, its sonic quality.
It’s also a bit more fabulous. The stairwells are covered in gold-leaf tiles. There are brass chandeliers and a custom wall piece that depicts red rose petals, co-created by the architects alongside the artist Liora Manne.
The hall’s total seating has a maximum capacity of 2,300 people (which is reduced from the original 2,738 capacity). Fortunately the stage lifts and seating wagons allow for various seating options when they are expanded. The walls, made of solid beech wood paneling (known for improving sound reverb) is part of the hall’s improved acoustics, not just for the audience, but for musicians, too.
Photo by Michael Moran
The new hall has 10 adjustable acoustic panels for customized sound. To contain the sound, there are fabric wall banners that cover the walls and ceiling when needed. That layer helps when there’s a pop concert one day, and a classical one the next, for example. The hall can change from “orchestra mode” with natural acoustics, to a pop concert with amplified sound, two different kinds of concerts that require a different set up.
“David Geffen Hall is for New York and for New Yorkers — proof of our resiliency after a tremendously difficult time,” said Henry Timms, President, and CEO of Lincoln Center. “Finally, our hometown orchestra has a home that lives up to its immense talent and creativity, boldly built through some of the darkest times in New York’s history. To the thousands of New Yorkers who made this project a reality, thank you. To the millions of New Yorkers, we hope to find inspiration here, welcome.”
Two celebratory galas were held on October 26 and October 28, followed by a free open house weekend for the public on October 29 and 30. The weekend featured hundreds of artist-led events with performances, activities and family events.
It’s what architect Gary McCluskie, the principal at Diamond Schmitt, said “offers a high degree of artistic flexibility.”
“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,” he said. “It works in concert with the back of house and public spaces within our masterplan to bring inviting, accessible, and human-driven spaces to the people of New York and the world.”
Photo by Sachyn Mital