Lincoln Center and New York Philharmonic accelerate renovation of David Geffen Hall

Pandemic closures are allowing designers Diamond Schmitt and Tod Williams Billie Tsien to complete the project two years ahead of schedule.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the New York Philharmonic have announced the acceleration of the comprehensive renovation of David Geffen Hall. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects │ Partners, the building is scheduled to re-open to the public in Fall 2022—nearly two years earlier than previously announced. 

Photo credit: Diamond Schmitt.

The design team consists of Diamond Schmitt Architects, led by Gary McCluskie, on the theater and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects │ Partners, led by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, on the public spaces. The team also includes acoustician Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks and theater designer Joshua Dachs of Fisher Dachs Associates. Turner Construction Company is serving as construction manager, and the firms Kohler Ronan and Thornton Tomasetti are providing engineering services.

We’re thrilled that the accelerated construction will bring audiences into the new hall almost two years early.  The fast-track process will immediately support the community with needed jobs and also play an active role in the City’s arts recovery in the fall of 2022,” says McCluskie.  “The Geffen Hall project is focused on design and artistic excellence and builds on our experience in designing versatile, visually striking, and acoustically flawless performance spaces—from La Maison Symphonique de Montréal and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, to Mariinsky II in St. Petersburg.  Our design for the new Geffen Hall auditorium, which brings audiences closer to the performers with wraparound seating and enhances the space’s intimacy with warm, natural surfaces, will set the stage for New York’s premier symphony orchestra—along with additional guest performers—to celebrate the city’s recovery.”

Photo credit: Diamond Schmitt.

Diamond Schmitt’s design for the new theater introduces a “single-room” concept, eliminating the proscenium and moving the stage forward by 25 feet, with audience seating wrapped around it, bringing all seats closer to the performers and providing acoustical and visual intimacy.

The new theater is designed to support a wide range of performance initiatives. Natural wood and curvilinear forms create an immersive experience that transforms the room into a contemporary, sculpted design. Seating capacity will be reduced by 500 seats to 2,200, and a steeper rake will be added to the orchestra level, significantly improving acoustics and sightlines. It will also have improved accessibility for guests, staff, and artists with disabilities.

Photo credit: Diamond Schmitt.

The new David Geffen Hall will also have state-of-the-art HVAC systems, filtration and air purifying systems, antimicrobial technology integrated into select surfaces, and a number of additional improvements developed using recommendations from a variety of sources including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers).

David Geffen Hall’s main lobby will double in size and open up on three sides to connect with the campus, and a new Welcome Center on Broadway will offer a portal to Lincoln Center for the public. At the core of the new lobby will be a media streaming wall, which will show concerts and events for free in real-time, as well as other digital material.

Photo credit: Diamond Schmitt.

The reconfigured and reenergized Grand Promenade will create one of the largest gathering spaces at a performance facility in New York City, with the ability to welcome more than 1,000 people for an event. During performances, there will be expanded intermission seating and bar/food service, including enhanced access to the terrace and new promontories overlooking the main level.

A new addition is The Sidewalk Studio, visible from the street on the corner of 65th Street and Broadway, which will be a home for educational, artistic, and community activities—a window into the performers and ideas that live on campus.

A Lightwall will wrap around three sides of the interior top of the building, creating space for dynamic mood and architectural lighting. Eleven thousand square feet of office space will be located behind the Lightwall. The entire north façade of the building will be reimagined as a canvas for site-specific works, honoring Lincoln Center’s long tradition in the visual arts. All of this will be accomplished while respecting the original and iconic Max Abramovitz building exterior. 

The New York Philharmonic will perform a 2021–22 season, with full details to be announced in June. To accommodate the continuous construction timeline, the Orchestra will perform in several New York City locations, which will be announced with the full schedule in June.   

“Our accelerated renovation plan for David Geffen Hall allows us to make the most of COVID-19 closures to complete the renovation process faster and more efficiently, without stops and starts. The Hall’s immediate and long-term benefits to the community, Lincoln Center, our Orchestra, and the world of music are unparalleled. We look forward to returning to David Geffen Hall and welcoming everyone to our new, state-of-the-art home in Fall 2022 … a major signal that New York City is back,” says Deborah Borda, Linda and Mitch Hart President and CEO of the New York Philharmonic.