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Feature Story - October 2007

The Show Must Go On

Performances Continue Despite Lincoln Center Construction

Alice Tully Hall and Julliard Expansion excavation along Bro

Alice Tully Hall Julliard Rendering credit
With the exception of Alice Tully Hall, currently closed for renovation, performances continue at other Lincoln Center facilities.

Although there is significant construction underway at Lincoln Center, don’t think it will get in the way of the resident artists’ whirlwind performance schedule.

In anticipation of center's 50th anniversary in 2009, multiple projects are underway to remake much of the 16-acre campus, with an eventual total estimated cost of about $900 million.

Work officially began in June 2006, and various projects are currently moving along at different speeds while design and construction teams work with the developer to coordinate their schedules.

“This project is the result of the collaboration of all of Lincoln Center’s resident institutions,” says Betsy Vorce, a spokesperson with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Inc., which is the developer for the entire effort. “We are meeting regularly with the design team and construction managers, and feel it is important to keep all our residents well-informed of what is happening.”

With the exception of Alice Tully Hall, which closed for renovation earlier this year, regular performances are continuing at all of Lincoln Center facilities throughout the construction, creating a somewhat unusual work – and performance – atmosphere.

The efforts already underway have a total projected cost of $650 million, and have been divided into several major subprojects.

Work has already begun on the flagship 65th Street Project, and the upgrading of Lincoln Center’s underground Central Mechanical Plant is almost complete. The projects, known as the “Promenade Project” and the “Harmony Atrium Project,” have yet to break ground, although all are expected to be finished by the end of 2009, developers say.

Of the subprojects, the 65th Street Project is considered the most ambitious and extensive, with plans to remake the entire block into a glassy, hi-tech “Street of the Arts.” Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with FXFOWLE, the street and the adjoining buildings will be completely renovated both inside and out. This project also presents the most logistical problems of the construction efforts as 65th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, is home to more than half of Lincoln Center’s resident institutions. These include the Julliard School, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the School of American Ballet and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, all of which will remain in operation throughout the construction.

The centerpiece of the 65th Street Project, and the Lincoln Center transformation in general, will be Alice Tully Hall, which has not received a major renovation since opening in 1969. The most striking change will be to the exterior of the eastern, Broadway-facing side of Alice Tully Hall and the adjoining Julliard School, which will be encased in fritted glass curtain walls framing the new three-story, 5,000 sq-ft Alice Tully lobby at the corner of 65th and Broadway. High above the glass-enclosed lobby, a cantilevered, extension of the Julliard School – also glass – will protrude out over Broadway. A glass-walled dance rehearsal studio will occupy the upper space of the lobby, and be visible from the street outside.

Designed to hang from brackets set in the steel truss of Alice Tully Hall and the cantilevered Julliard extension overhead, the fritted glass walls that wrap around the structure have presented some problems during construction.

“We are doing window wall systems that haven’t really been done before,” says FXFOWLE principal-in-charge, Sylvia Smith. “One wall system will literally hang from the fifth floor. Our team had to do extensive computer modeling on exactly where to place the brackets to make [Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s] and our vision work.”

Jasper DeFazio, project executive at Turner, which is handling construction management for the 65th Street Project, agrees that the walls have been a challenge.

“We had to remove the external facade and are redoing the structural slab to accommodate the new open space,” he says. “[Glass] has its own challenges, but use of similar glass walls is growing.”

At press time, the brackets were in place in the new steel structure, and the glass was expected to go up this fall.

Major renovations are already underway for the interior of the hall, as well.

The main theater has been hollowed out, with only the structural shell and original stage to remain in the final version. New floors, walls, and ceiling are to set go in, and specially-designed wooden wall panels will be embedded with layers of hidden lights, allowing them to glow and light the theater. New seating and hydraulic stage extensions are also planned, according to FXFOWLE’s Smith.


Meanwhile, the interior of Julliard is also undergoing an extensive makeover as part of the 65th Street Project, and classes and rehearsals will be held throughout construction. The Milstein Plaza Bridge which connected the Julliard School to the North Plaza was demolished in June of 2006, and several internal courtyards were filled in to make way for the 53,000-sq-ft expansion of the school. New classrooms and performances spaces, including a renovation of the Peter J. Sharpe Theater are under construction, and work will begin this fall on a new FXFOWLE-designed, 3,000-sq-ft bookstore on the 66th St. side of the building.

Renovations to the parking garages beneath the Center are also planned for the concourse level beneath the street. This work, done in cooperation between FXFOWLE and Lincoln Center Project consulting engineer Arup, will re-organize the underground traffic pattern, open new street entrances to the concourse level and replace or refurbish the decades-old ventilation systems and security offices. The parking concourse will remain open for traffic during this construction, adding to the logistical challenge.

While the 65th Street Project will continue well into 2008, the Central Mechanical Plant renovation is almost finished, with the expanded and upgraded underground facility just about ready to handle the new demands for hot and cold water and related services on the renovated campus. Working on the underground facility while Lincoln Center was operating presented additional challenges, says Cliff McMillan, a principal with Arup.

“It is really a logistical issue” he says. “Putting the cooling towers on the roof of the Met had to be carefully scheduled so as not to disrupt their work, and craning the chillers into the basement through a tight opening in the Plaza slab took a great deal of coordination.”

Key Players Box:

Owner: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Inc.
Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, FXFOWLE
Construction Management: Turner Construction, RC Dolner
Consulting Engineer: Arup



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