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First Design Unveiled for Lincoln Center's Redevelopment

Images courtesy Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts

New York’s Lincoln Center today unveiled Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design for its first phase of redevelopment, sharing a futuristic image, infused with mid-century modern, for its spaces around West 65th Street in Manhattan. The performing arts center has re-dubbed the area a new "Street of the Arts."

Plans, which have been conceived over the last several months, include major renovations and expansions of the area’s streetscape, public spaces, and virtually all of its cultural facilities. Total cost is projected at $325 million.

The redesign of 65th street itself will include new transparent building facades, dramatic lighting, narrowing of the street from three to two lanes, and the removal of underground parking entrances. Enhancements to the North Plaza public space will include a new sloping "campus green" built on the roof of a restaurant, the enlargement, sloping, and re-surfacing of the famous reflecting pool, and a closely clipped bosque of trees, reminiscent of those in many French gardens, next to the pool.

Facilities improvements include expansion of The Julliard School, a redesign of Alice Tully Hall, a completely new facility for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, an expansion of the Lincoln Center Theater, and a redesign of the Samuel B. and David Rose Building (including a new glass entry and lobby).

The overall design concept, conceived in collaboration with Fox and Fowle Architects, displays Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (formerly just Diller + Scofidio) gift for maximizing transparency and fluidity in a context that harkens to the classic modern style in which Lincoln Center was built.

"There’s something really interesting, even magical, about this 60’s architecture. We wanted to amplify its most successful features and fulfill its unrealized potential," said firm principal Elizabeth Diller. Added Scofidio: "There’s a real history here. It shouldn’t be erased."

Exceptional new design elements include the North Plaza’s aforementioned roof garden, which cantilevers over the street, in a "parabolic" shape; light "mats" and LEDs set in the sidewalks; and Alice Tully Hall’s new glass entrance, whose roof shoots skyward at an abrupt angle and includes a donor facility that is suspended in glass above the Hall’s inner lobby.

"It’s really amazing that they’ve let us do all of this," Diller added, smiling.

The spaces around 65th street make up one half of Lincoln Center’s total area. Designs for the second phase of redevelopment, on Lincoln Center’s south side (including the Metropolitan Opera and the Grand Plaza) will likely be unveiled in about a year, said Diller Scofidio + Renfro principal Ricardo Scofidio.

While Lincoln Center is now embarking on a $325 million capital campaign to help pay for the project, much of the funding will come from New York City. Facing potential criticism of increasing expenditures on public projects, Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted: "There will always be a reason why not, but the bottom line is, if you study forever, you do nothing."

Construction is expected to begin in 2006.

Sam Lubell