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Gehry and Hardy Unveil New Brooklyn Theater

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Image Courtesy Jock Pottle

Image Courtesy Advanced Media Design

After years of producing wildly curvaceous buildings, Frank Gehry, FAIA, appears ready to use – at least for a while- straight lines.

Today Gehry and Hugh Hardy, FAIA, of H3 Hardy Collaboration, unveiled their new $35.8 million Theater for a New Audience in Downtown Brooklyn, a 299-seat flexible theater that will essentially be a box clad in large, stainless steel shingles and angled planes of glass.

The theater company, a troupe that specializes in Shakespeare and the classics, wanted to utilize the cube-shape to maximize intimacy and, says Hardy, to replicate the courtyards where Elizabethan theater was often performed. He adds that the rectilinear shape- a sharp departure from much of Gehry’s recent work- helped draw the California-based architect to the project.

“It became a challenge for both of us,” Hardy says. “What do you do to a box to make it interesting?”

For starters the 58-foot tall building’s front façade will feature a massive curtain wall revealing a brightly-lit, lively interior; its side-placed stainless steel shingles, patterned, will glimmer in the sun; and undulating metal flourishes, also on the sides, will identify administrative spaces.

“If architecture didn’t contribute curiosity it wouldn’t be worth doing,” adds Hardy, whose team carefully balanced simplicity with attention-grabbing bravura in putting the design together.

Inside, the theater will contain three levels of seating, able to transform into various configurations, including theater in the round, says Hardy. The theater will also contain a 50-seat rehearsal/performance space, a café, a roof garden, and the administrative offices.

The design is part of a new Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cultural District that includes a future performing arts branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, designed by Enrique Norten; a recently-completed renovation of a former State office building into affordable office space, mostly for arts organizations, and a future cultural facility to be determined later (proposals from cultural organizations are due by February 7). Norten and Hardy will collaborate on a 38 foot-wide public space separating their two buildings.

The Theater will receive $6.2 million in City support through the BAM Local Development Corporation.

Sam Lubell