Geffen Hall’s $550M Renovation Fully Funded

The mustard-colored armchairs and inner shoebox of David Geffen Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic in Lincoln Center, are gone. When the hall reopens this fall, undulating beechwood will dominate the stage – and so will the audience, with seats upholstered in richly colored patterns that evoke the movement of flower petals.

When the coronavirus pandemic hits the performing arts, paralyzing the orchestra and center captured in long shutdown Accelerating the planned renovation of Geffen Hall, evacuating its main theater and redesigning its public spaces.

Now the long-delayed revision is almost complete. Project leaders announced Wednesday that they have raised their $550 million target to cover the cost of the renovation, and that the hall will open to the public in October, a year and a half ahead of schedule.

“It’s not a simple renovation where we repaint the walls and put in new carpet and chairs,” Deborah Borda, president and CEO of the Philharmonic, said in an interview. “The whole field is transformed. It’s a completely new lounge and a completely new feeling.”

With 2,200 seats (down from 2,738 in the old saloon), Geffen will have a more intimate feel – and if all goes as planned, it will improve the acoustics. The project’s leaders hope the renovated hall will help revitalize New York’s performing arts scene during a difficult time, as cultural institutions work to recover from the coronavirus and win back audiences.

The pandemic cost the Philharmonic more than $27 million in anticipated ticket revenue; In the early days of the crisis, it had to cut its staff from 135 by 40 percent, although many were rehired. The orchestra is currently in the middle of a roving season during construction, mostly shuttles between Alice Tully Hall and the Rose Theater in Jazz at Lincoln Center; he is also looking for a replacement for music director Jaap van Zweden. announced in September He said he would leave the post in 2024.

The coronavirus has prompted the Philharmonic Orchestra and the center to think more urgently about attracting new audiences, a challenge that orchestras have wrestled with for decades. The hall will feature several areas to attract people. The lobby will have a 50-metre digital screen that broadcasts the concerts live. A new studio overlooking Broadway with floor-to-ceiling windows will offer passersby a glimpse of performances, rehearsals and other events.

“We’re opening ourselves up to New York so it doesn’t feel like a castle,” Borda said. “Welcome feels inviting and lively.”

Opened as the Philharmonic Hall in 1962 and named Avery Fisher Hall since 1976, renovations have been going on for decades. stopped over and over Worries and concerns by the management about losing their subscribers if the orchestra is exiled from their home for an extended period of time.

A $100 million gift entertainment giant David Geffen revived the project in 2015. Since then, the orchestra and center have raised an additional $450 million, though other name giveaways have yet to be announced.

The pandemic, which forced the hall to close in March 2020, gave the orchestra and center a chance to step up construction, giving a silver lining. They worked extremely fast by clearing out the main theater, removing the box office and relocating the escalators.

The turmoil in the global supply chain has made it difficult to obtain some building materials. Increases in coronavirus cases have also revealed safety issues at the construction site. However, the project progressed even as live performances in the city came to a halt.

“It has become a true celebration of the resilience, creativity, and diversity of our big city,” Henry Timms, president of Lincoln Center, said in an interview.

Timms added that there is still work ahead, including bringing the seats into the saloon and painting the interior. The orchestra will begin playing at the venue in August as part of the acoustic tuning process, which is expected to take several weeks.

“No one is declaring it a victory yet,” Timms said. “We’re not done yet.”

Long derided by musicians and critics, the acoustics of the hall has been a priority. The renovated space features beechwood walls molded into the recesses to help improve the resonance. Seats will surround the stage, which has been moved 25 feet forward, providing a greater sense of intimacy.

The hall’s famously crowded lobbies and other public spaces were redesigned in 2019 by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, who joined a team that included Diamond Schmitt Architects working on the auditorium’s interior; Acoustic design firm Acoustics; and Fisher Dachs Associates, a theatrical design firm.

The lobby has nearly doubled in size and will include a lounge, bar and restaurant.

Leaders of the project said the renovation has brought significant benefits to the city’s economy, which has lagged behind the rest of the United States in its recovery. More than 6,000 jobs were created, according to the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center; many went to businesses run by women or members of racial or ethnic minorities.

“We built it through the pandemic because we knew New Yorkers needed jobs as much as they needed culture,” Katherine Farley, chairman of the Lincoln Center board, said in a statement.

on board — who was hired Largely due to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s success in completing the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003—after leading the Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1990s, as president and CEO of the Philharmonic in 2017—the renovation was long overdue, he said. He added that the project gave a sense of hope to the Philharmonic staff and players in the difficult moments of the pandemic, where dozens of concerts were canceled and salary cuts were imposed.

“The icon of New York: real resilience and hanging out there,” he said. “This is the reason I came back. I have always believed in this project.”

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