hide captionThe newly remodeled Alice Tully Hall presents a friendlier, more open face to the public.
The newly remodeled Alice Tully Hall presents a friendlier, more open face to the public.
New York City's Lincoln Center is one of America's premier performing-arts venues, but these days, it's just one big construction site. The 45-year-old campus is undergoing a $1.2 billion renovation to make it more modern and pedestrian-friendly. Sunday, the first part of the project is being unveiled after a two-year reconstruction: Alice Tully Hall is reopening.
Ten days ago, the lobby of Alice Tully Hall was literally buzzing with construction workers putting finishing touches on a wholesale transformation of the space. Until the renovation, audiences entered the recital hall — which is underground — through a dark, cramped doorway off Broadway into a windowless lobby. Jane Moss, vice president of programming for Lincoln Center, says that Tully was kind of the ugly stepsister to the much larger Avery Fisher Hall.
"Alice Tully Hall was sort of vaguely a bunker, though people sort of liked it," Moss says. "But it was definitely not in the same family as Avery Fisher Hall. And now, they are of equal weight."
More Air, More Light
The redesigned lobby is airy and filled with light, surrounded by a high glass wall that faces both Broadway and 65th Street. Elizabeth Diller, one of the principal architects, says that part of the mission of the $159 million renovation was to reorient the lobby toward the street — and vice versa.
"Not only was Tully cut off from the city and had a very, very minor entrance, but it really had no identity," Diller says. "So what we did, very simply... we expanded the space, we encased it in glass and we just put everything on view."
This includes a new dance studio for the Juilliard School, high above the lobby, in a box, seemingly suspended in air. Now, people walking up and down the street can see the dancers inside.
One feature of the lobby itself is a 50-foot-long curved bar, made of out of Portuguese limestone and designed by Diller. It manages to be both a piece of sculpture and a nice place to get a drink.
"It is a bar that's going to be open quite late into the night, and it's open to the public," Diller says. "So, during intermissions, the audiences will use this bar, as well. But it's a piece of the street. And anybody can walk off the street at any time, have a sandwich, have a coffee, have a drink."
Not all of the changes to Alice Tully Hall have been so visible. One stated goal of the architects was to make it quieter.
"We isolated the hall, structurally; it's a partial box-in-box," Diller says. "We also isolated the nearby subway tracks to eliminate any rumble at all that would be coming from the subway and transmitted through the rock."
Toning Down The Visual Noise
Diller says she wanted to create a sense of intimacy inside the auditorium by getting rid of the "visual" noise, as well. So the walls and ceilings are covered in an orange-tinted wood that's made from a single log of African Moab wood, sheared very thin. Behind the wood, LED lighting makes a dramatic effect just before each concert begins.
"The moment at which the murmur just dies down and all attention is focused onstage, it's the moment where the wood just glows from the inside and exudes a kind of blush," Diller says.
Of course, a concert hall is only as good as the sound inside it. Since mid-January, Alice Tully Hall has been going through a series of acoustical tune-ups.
Lincoln Center's Moss says she held her breath the first time musicians hit the stage.
"You never know with acoustics," Moss says. "But within the first note, we knew that we had an extraordinary hall on our hands, acoustically."
Audiences can hear the results firsthand Sunday, when Alice Tully Hall reopens with a concert featuring Edgar Meyer, pianist Leon Fleischer and members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.