Polshek Partnership Architects designs upgrade for NYC performing arts center
New York City Center today unveiled plans to modernize the organization’s Midtown Manhattan home in to provide modern performing arts facility while also restoring the historic, neo-Moorish building.
Built in 1923 as a meeting hall for the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, City Center’s building was dedicated in 1943 as the city’s first performing arts center. The New York City Opera, New York City Ballet and New York City Symphony were founded under its dome. Theater luminaries, including Paul Robeson, Orson Welles and Tallulah Bankhead, performed on the theater’s stage. Other stars such as Bob Fosse and Walter Matthau appeared in popular revivals of Broadway musicals as well.
The comprehensive project designed by New York-based Polshek Partnership Architects will now upgrade the building from the canopies in front to the back of house with new lighting, improved seating and sightlines and amenities. The $75 million project will also restore the mosaic walls, arabesque ceilings and intricately detailed plasterwork.
According to Duncan Hazard, Partner in Charge, Polshek Partnership Architects, “When people step into the refreshed and reanimated City Center, we hope they will feel we’ve given them a thoroughly top-line, modern performing arts center, that remains true to their affection for this wonderful place. It is a privilege for us to be working with this gorgeously ornamented building, which simply could not be constructed today. We want it to be a pleasure for the audiences and performers to experience every aspect, old and new, of City Center.”
Polshek Partnership Architects’ design aims to preserve the character of New York City Center, while restoring and enhancing the building with modern amenities.
The design addresses and resolves a number of functional shortcomings inherent in the original building while retaining its distinctive appeal. A new canopy on the exterior with additional exterior lighting and signage, subject to the approval of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, will announce the theater’s presence more visibly on the street and define the building more dramatically within its urban context. In the interior, the original box office lobby and mezzanine lobby will be restored, and several new spaces will be introduced, including an expanded and redesigned street level lobby and a new patrons’ lounge. The number of restroom facilities of the theater will be increased by 50 percent. Upgrades to the auditorium will include the re-sloping of the floors to improve sightlines within the house, and the reconfiguration, replacing and resizing of theater seating throughout to make it compatible with contemporary standards and to provide more comfort and improved accessibility for all patrons.
The renovation respects and enhances the original theater’s Moorish-accented design motifs. In addition to the restoration of many of the spaces, the new design insertions have been based on a careful study of the underlying geometric motifs of Islamic architecture, reinterpreted to be complimentary but not imitative of the existing fabric. The architects’ goal is to create a vibrant new venue, with all of the conveniences and amenities that contemporary patrons expect, but one that is still consistent with the original City Center.
Back of house improvements include a new “sprung” stage floor suitable for dance, all new theatrical support systems, a completely refurbished dressing room tower and handicap-accessible toilets for the performers.
The renovation will take place in two phases, from late April through September 2010 and from mid-March through October 2011. This schedule will limit interruptions to the City Center’s programs and performances.